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What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur? – Observations from those who know.

Amie Parnaby
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What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur?

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You might remember that I attended the Reflect Festival in Limassol back in October. While I was there, I heard a panel discussion with three investors about what makes a successful entrepreneur. While there were some disagreements between the three of them, several characteristics, skills, and motivations achieved consensus.  

The areas these three men agreed on were not the most exciting part of the discussion. The points on which they disagreed caused me to follow some more profound research.

Why People Disagree on What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur

There are disagreements on what makes a successful entrepreneur. Mostly, that’s because people are looking at it from different perspectives. Your VCs (venture capitalists) are looking for something that can scale significantly from the original product or service without a corresponding running cost. Investors or financiers are looking for as close to a “sure thing” as possible, so they seek as close to a perfect business model as they can find.

And then some individuals have done it. These people have succeeded, and they have either embodied all the rules or have broken them down with astounding results. 

From here on, I want to show you that you don’t need to have all the skills that some people demand from a business start-up. You can still be a successful entrepreneur even if you don’t tick all the boxes.

What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur? –

What Everyone Agrees On

While there are some disagreements between different sources of advice, the following are what virtually everyone agrees on. These are probably the core requirements of a successful entrepreneur.

Not afraid of failure, Risk tolerant

the one this that everyone agrees on is that successful entrepreneurs need a certain level of risk tolerance and not a debilitating fear of failure. Fear of failure is one of the primary reasons that so many business ideas never come to fruition. If you are too fearful of failure because of the risks involved, you will never make the decisions that might propel your business forward.

Risk tolerance might sound like successful entrepreneurs are risk-takers and fearless. However, it actually means that they are good at risk management and have an accurate assessment of the risk involved. No enterprise is without risk. However, successful entrepreneurs weigh their potential losses against the possible gains.

It’s not about being fearless or high-stakes gambling; it’s about being courageous enough to take the opportunity and risk something to gain much.

Focused & Determined

No entrepreneur has ever achieved success without focusing on a future goal and a determination to reach it. Even when things might not seem to be going well, the successful entrepreneur can still keep sight of their goals and push through with determination. While the route to achieving those goals might deviate, they can still see the path to success.

Don’t get defensive about constructive criticism – know your potential investors.”

Passionate, Motivated

Virtually every entrepreneurial enterprise has begun with one person (or one group) with the passion and motivation to bring a project to life.

There’s a saying that goes “If your work is something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” It’s false. No matter how much you love something, when it gets hard it feels like work. However, if you still maintain a passion for what your doing and you are still motivated to make it work, that is what will drive you forward.

Continuously Learning, Growth Mindset

Successful entrepreneurs know something; they don’t know everything, and never will. And while for some people, that might feel like an insurmountable barrier, the entrepreneur uses it to grow and learn.

Anyone who has made a success of their lives, whether in business or careerwise has a growth mindset. Despite school ending after college, university, or even post-graduate studies, there is still a lifetime ahead to continue growing and learning.

Even someone who goes from a corporate position to living in the woods and carving elaborate sculptures learns and grows through that process. A successful entrepreneur keeps learning though every step of their journey.

“Some personality traits make excellent entrepreneurs. But the ability to learn and grow makes an ideal entrepreneur.”

Excellent Team Builders

In the spirit of not knowing everything, a successful entrepreneur knows how to find the information and the extra people with the skills to complement their lack. A successful person doesn’t bring together a group of people the same as them and expect to create a successful business venture. The Forex trader doesn’t expect to have a successful brokerage with only good traders. They know how to build business partnerships, hire the right people to support the technical side and those who will boost their sales.

A dentist on their own will struggle, they need a dental nurse, a dental hygienist, and a receptionist to be truly functional.

A business doesn’t function on a single person or type of person, then there is no other view point or alternative suggestions. It’s like talking to an echo chamber with no knew ideas.

Start-up teams, rather than individuals, tend to cover all the diversity of skills required for their business”


A characteristic of any successful entrepreneur is persistence. Virtually any business ever started has had its ups and downs. Can you imagine Apple becoming the tech giant it is today in its humble beginnings? What sets apart the successful entrepreneur is their ability to persist through the hard times, and keep working towards their objective. Not everyone has that kind of strength to persist when everything seems to be going wrong.

Despite what we think of ourselves, we are invariable wired to take the path of least resistance. Swimming upstream and going against the flow are hard, and no one said starting a business would be easy.

“You need to push to your investors. Commit to pitching to more than 100 investors, and then go beyond it.”

What Most People Agree On

While you might not need the following skills, you might find that they are beneficial to the budding entrepreneur. The thinking is that if you lack a core skill or characteristic, having these supporting skills could help you on your path to a successful business.

Innovation & Vision

While every entrepreneurial dream begins with a business idea, they aren’t always groundbreaking and wildly different from any other. It could simply mean filling a niche that’s missing in your region. We’ve all heard of co-working spaces, but if there isn’t one in your region, you could fill the void in the market. That approach has nothing new or visionary, but it is still a business idea.

However, in a saturated or even partially served market, innovation and vision are necessary to differentiate your business from your competitors and claim authenticity and originality.


Curiosity is what gets a person started in the entrepreneurial mindset. the question, “what if..?” is what gets a person going. However, mere curiosity is not will propel a person into successful entrepreneurship. Curiosity is what might allow the successful entrepreneur diversify and expand their business

Expanding provision – “What if our clients could also get this from us?

Diversifying Provison“What if we went in this direction too?”

Increasing sales – “What if we included these products?”

Enhacing a service – “What if we integrated this software function?”

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back again.

Excellent Communicators

There are hundreds of perhaps awful communicators, and socially awkward people who have managed to make a name for themselves as savvy entrepreneurs. Being a good communicator is not an essential skill for becoming a successful entrepreneur. However, it does make things a whole lot easier when you can tell as well as show what your business can do.

It’s not just about how you communicate as an individual. You need to be able to speak about your business to potential investors, clients, partners, staff and your peers and competitors. It’s helpful to have a broad network of peers and

Adaptable & Flexible

Earlier I said that focus and determination were core elements of the successful entrepreneurs tools kit. And I still maintain that. Focusing on an objective and having the determination to reach it are still core requirements. Still, there is determination to reach the goal and determination to stick to a single path.

Focus and determination will keep the goal in sight, however, the ability to adapt and flex in changing circumstances will allow you to find another route to success, despite some insurmountable setbacks.

Imagine you’re driving along a mountain road and a rockslide has blocked your path. Your objective on the other side of the mountain. If you stick to your predetermined route you will either have to climb over the rock slide and walk the rest of the way or you try to dig out a path through the rocks. Both options will be difficult and take a long time. However, if you drive back a little way there is a second road around the mountain that will only take a little longer and won’t be as hard as the first two options.

Sometimes, the best route to success is to take the alternative path, not battle through the initial one. the ability to adapt to your surroundings and environment is thekey to evolution, use it wisely.

“Don’t be afraid to pivot or diversify”

Now for the debate

What Some People Think is Necessary

Not everyone agrees that you need the following skills and character traits to become a successful entrepreneur, but you will come across investors and potential business partners who will demand them from you. The choice will then be, do you really want these partners enough to acquire these skills, or would you rather find a more symbiotic and beneficial partnership, which will work with you rather than against you?


Organisation is necessary to a certain point, there are no successful entrepreneurs that are serially disorganised. However, it’s trait on which you can work, and with the assistance of several online tools you can create an environment that looks and works in an organised manner, even if you aren’t. Everything from project management and scheduling tools to automated reporting. CRM systems, and so much more.

You can even extend them to your personal life too, so that work and home aren’t perpetually in the way of each other.

Seek Perfection

Some people think that seeking perfection is an ideal for a successful entrepreneur. Unfortunately, the pursuit of perfection can often be one of the most overwhelming barriers to success. if every entrepreneur waited until they had achieved perfection before they launched their business it would never have happened. Perfection is not achievable.

Conversely, once a business has started and achieved a predetermined measure of success, pursuing the next level, the higher tier or even “perfection” becomes normal. However, the definition of perfection comes from examining the product or service and the feedback from the target users. You can’t even approach perfect in a vacuum

Find Balance

Another debatable character trait is the ability to find balance between work and play or work and home life. Some successful entrepreneurs describe the incredible hours they put into building their businesses. While they might be at the top of the tree now, I wouldn’t recommend their work schedules to anyone wanting to maintain a happy and healthy home life.

If you want to be alive, healthy, and still have your loved ones at home for you when you have achieved your success, balance is essential.

If you are young enough not have a dependent family you should still practise balance for your mental and physical health. Burnout is not the province of the 40-somethings.


Patience is a virtue, and having the patience to keep working, and waiting for your hard work to come to fruition is beneficial as an entrepreneur. However, most successful entrepreneurs are not patient. They keep pushing, working, and developing their product until they begin to see results.

Being patient and waiting for results is not the usual mindset of an entrepreneur because it implies waiting. Waiting for things to happen or change is not what they do, they keep moving forward.

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