Entrepreneurs are a peculiar type of person with a set of skills and traits that come together to make a risk-taking business owner. Mindtools breaks up these skills into categories comprised of personal traits, interpersonal skills, critical thinking and creativity, and technical and practical skills (Mindtools Content Team, n.d.). Entrepreneurs also seem to have an energy to them: a caffeinated charisma. They have the ability to start a new venture, predict opportunities, organize needed resources, and execute on their vision in the face of adversity (Makhbul, 2011, p.116). What types of people can embrace this entrepreneurial mindset successfully? Surely, some people are content having a secure job with no risk for the rest of their lives. What makes an entrepreneur different? There are certain skills that enable success, and there are traits that make up that caffeinated, charismatic risk taker.
Skills held by successful entrepreneurs include the ability to lead and motivate their team (Mindtools Content Team, n.d.). After all, as the company grows, it is going to grow beyond one person. As the company grows, the entrepreneur will need to know how to listen, negotiate, and communicate effectively with employees, clients, and suppliers (Mindtools Content Team, n.d.). Some suggest that an entrepreneur needs to be skilled in finance, operations, marketing, and human resources (Makhbul, 2011, p.117), but it is clear that most entrepreneurs learn those skills while they are growing their companies. Success can be attributed more to the entrepreneur’s motivation, strategy, and vision than having skills in finance (Holden, 2008, p.2). In that line of thinking, softer skills like goal setting, planning and organizing, decision making, and problem solving skills are the most crucial ones for an entrepreneur to have or develop (Mindtools Content Team, n.d.).
Successful entrepreneurs also have some common traits that make them a little different from the rest of the crowd. For one, they tend to think creatively, recognizing opportunities and envisioning a big picture of where things could be improved (Mindtools Content Team, n.d.). Many entrepreneurs end up starting several ventures because they see these opportunities everywhere. Another distinct trait that separates an entrepreneur from an employee is the desire for control and motivation to lead others. They are driven and motivated, with seemingly endless reserves of energy, while being resilient enough to suffer failures and setbacks (Mindtools Content Team, n.d.). As an entrepreneur has to take risks to seize these opportunities, the entrepreneur needs to be able to tolerate risk and the possibility of failure.
Successful entrepreneurs are open to new experiences and embrace innovation and curiosity to dream up their vision. They are also conscientious, with self-discipline and motivation to execute on their vision (Robinson, 2014). Entrepreneurs are known to break the rules and be flexible while communicating a vision in a passionate way. They have tenacity to face failure while believing in themselves and their ability to succeed. Entrepreneurs are able to manage fear and stress (Robinson, 2014).
One successful entrepreneur is Richard Branson. Known for sixty companies in the Virgin Group, including Virgin Records, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson is known for his innovative approaches to marketing and leadership. He is characterized by being able to think differently than other leaders while attracting great talent and maintaining a positive company culture. He has to delegate well, given the size of the Virgin Group, and he Richard Branson has a willingness to learn and grow while getting his hands dirty, making mistakes, and leading with his passion (Half, 2018). Having no college degree and launching his first business at the age of 16, he picked up his skills on the job, bringing with him only his entrepreneurial spirit (Live & Learn Consultancy, n.d.). His first business venture was a magazine called Student (Live & Learn Consultancy, n.d.), and he formed the Virgin Group at the age of 20 with a mail-order record store (Virgin, n.d.). In order to remain successful, Richard Branson learned to delegate the small stuff, became efficient, innovated, and embraced lifelong learning for himself and his staff (Live & Learn Consultancy, n.d.).
Richard Branson’s one piece of advice is: don’t give up. His drive comes from his belief that he has to try for success because he does not want to regret the chances he did not take. Perseverance and inner drive bleeds from this line of thinking. He said, “Imagine where J.K. Rowling would be if she didn’t keep persevering when others didn’t recognize the greatness of her books” (Hoffman, 2019). Branson believes everyone can write their own future. “Nobody gets everything right first time, and it is how we learn from our mistakes that defines us. We all deserve a second chance” (Hoffman, 2019).
So now, Virgin Galactic is shooting for the stars. Richard Branson’s $4 billion fortune is built on his bold risk-taking, so why not take travel to space? Even through COVID-19’s economic downturns, when other Virgin businesses are filing for bankruptcy protection, Virgin Galactic is another showpiece of Branson’s entrepreneurial spirit. Will Virgin sink due to economic collapse of the travel industry during the coronavirus pandemic? Possibly, but the economic state of the world is not stopping Richard Branson from taking risks.
While a lot of people seem to suggest that entrepreneurs need to be masters at finance or operations, it appears that most successful entrepreneurs are not. An entrepreneur sees an opportunity, dreams up a vision, and tenaciously chases that dream down, taking risks and learning what they need to learn along the way. They lead teams, they negotiate, they communicate, and they develop the skills needed to grow their business. What the entrepreneur does have is that entrepreneurial spirit: the willingness to put embrace an uncertain future as they passionately pursue their goals.
Is there room for extreme risk tolerance in the current economy? Absolutely. The big winners in the market today are innovating and pushing boundaries even though unemployment rates are higher than ever. Entrepreneurial spirit is crucial for global economic growth, especially in these tough times. The world needs more risk takers.
Hoffman, Sabrina. (2019). Billionaire Richard Branson has some simple advice for those who want to succeed. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/richard-branson-shares-the-secret-to-his-success-and-its-so-simple-2018-7
Half, Robert. (2018). 9 leadership skills from Sir Richard Branson. Retrieved from https://www.roberthalf.ae/advice/people-management/9-leadership-skills-sir-richard-branson
Holden, J. (2008). Decisions and downfalls: Entrepreneurship is an attractive career choice, but decision making is a must. Retrieved from http://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/BUS305-1.2.1_Decisions-and-Downfalls.pdf
Live & Learn Consultancy. (n.d.). Richard Branson Leadership Skills, Qualities and Lessons for Business Success. Retrieved from https://www.liveandlearnconsultancy.co.uk/top-5-richard-branson-tips-for-success/
Makhbul, Z. & Hasun, F. (2011, January). Entrepreneurial success: An exploratory study among entrepreneurs. International Journal of Business and Management, 6(1), 116–125. Retrieved from http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/ijbm/article/view/7046
Mindtools Content Team. (n.d.). Entrepreneurial skills: The skills you need to build a great business. Mindtools. Retrieved from https://my.uopeople.edu/pluginfile.php/843960/mod_book/chapter/234035/EntrapenaurialTools.pdf
Robinson, Joe. (2014). The 7 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/299822
Virgin. (n.d.). Sir Richard Branson Established the Virgin Group in 1970 by Launching a Mail-Order Record Business that Developed into Virgin Records. Retrieved from https://www.virgin.com/virgingroup/content/our-story-0
Art Ocain is the President & Chief Operating Officer at MePush, Inc. a managed service provider that serves IT architecture, operations, and cybersecurity needs across all verticals. Art has been in IT for over 20 years and has been a tech in the trenches as well as a manager in web hosting, internet service providers, enterprise IT, as well as services for the SMB market. You can read more on his LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/artocain/