Entrepreneur Life Institute

Business as usual

There is no such thing as a “typical” entrepreneur. We come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. Still, myths abound, and most of us walk around with a specific caricature of what an entrepreneur is like in our minds.

Most often that image includes someone who is bold, daring, comfortable with risks, and a consummate schmoozer. There’s no problem with this constellation of traits, except that it can hold a lot of other people back. I have met countless aspiring entrepreneurs who fear they aren’t cut out for the job because they keep comparing themselves to this common stereotype. The truth is that the average entrepreneur is actually quite different from that brazen ‘let’s make a deal’ kind of guy or gal.

Contrary to the popular stereotype, here are a few traits of successful entrepreneurs.

1. Ability to admit (comfortably and openly) what they don’t know

Far from the know-it-all, most successful entrepreneurs spend a lot of time identifying what they don’t know and, more importantly, how they can find out. Openly admitting knowledge gaps is as important as comfortably asking for help. Most people are hesitant about displaying this much vulnerability, but entrepreneurs know that their survival depends on it.

2. Willingness to be cautious and mindful

The common entrepreneurial stereotype tends to favor a take charge, “let’s get it done yesterday” kind of attitude. While almost all entrepreneurs have a keen sense of urgency, they are also responsible for making a small pool of resources stretch a long way. This necessitates a spendthrift-ness that extends beyond money. Successful entrepreneurs must also learn to strategically marshal other important resources such as time, energy, and favors, making the phrase “let me think about it” an important tool.

3. A focus on relationships instead of sales

Great entrepreneurs realize that, second to their own time, their network is their greatest asset. These relationships can provide not only information, support, and introductions, but also, of course, sales—but only if they are navigated properly. People tire quickly of a salesman whose only focus is pushing their new, latest, greatest gadget. Instead, successful entrepreneurs focus on building long-term relationships and concern themselves more with how they can help rather than how they can gain. They know that authentic and generous relationships are essential in creating abundance.

4. A knack for saying no

Opportunity is the bright shiny beacon that drives most entrepreneurs forward, convincing them to work hours that are often obscene and take significant risks. Savvy entrepreneurs recognize that that not all opportunities are created equal, though. Many are merely distractions that drain the company of important resources, such as focus, energy, and time. Others may even imperil the whole venture. Successful entrepreneurs cultivate their own restraint, saying no quickly and frequently in order to stay on track.

5. Desire for alone time

Many entrepreneurs are self-described extroverts, but far from all are. No matter your individual preferences, building a business undoubtedly takes a great amount of interpersonal interaction. Most entrepreneurs quickly realize, however, that time spent pounding the pavement and exchanging cards needs to be well balanced with independent thinking time. And it’s astounding what lengths entrepreneurs will go to protect it. An over-packed and over-peopled schedule can kill momentum and cloud your vision. Alone time is important in giving entrepreneurs the space they need to process, create, and move things forward

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Adelaide Lancaster

Adelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, speaker and co-author of The Big Enough Company: Creating a business that works for you (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City. She is a columnist for The Daily Muse and writes The Big Enough Company blog for Forbes.com. She lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband and daughter.
Adelaide Lancaster
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