What are the traits of successful entrepreneurs that set them apart from everyone else? What trait do entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Henry Ford, Mike Adenuga, J. Paul Getty, Lawrence Ellison, Lakshmi Mittal, W. Clement Stone, Richard Branson and Aliko Dangote have that the ordinary entrepreneurs don’t? All these questions are going to be answered in this article.

After understudying the lives of successful entrepreneurs and the drop out billionaires of this world, I have been able to pinpoint 12 traits that makes them successful. Without wasting your time, below are the 12 traits of successful entrepreneurs.

12 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

1. Successful Entrepreneurs are proactive learners

Entrepreneurship is a life long process and successful entrepreneurs know this. Things change so fast in the business world; you could be an innovation today and become obsolete tomorrow. To stay on course and adapt swiftly to the ever changing trend, successful entrepreneurs keep studying and learning.

“To succeed in business, to reach the top, an individual must know all that is possible to know about that business.” – J. Paul Getty

They read industrial journals, books and magazines. They attend seminars and update themselves regularly with the latest industrial trend. Successful entrepreneurs know that their cup is never full; they know that they don’t have the right answers to all questions. So they humble themselves and learn when availed the opportunity.

“A cup that is full is useless.” – Chinese Proverb

2. They thrive on risk

“In today’s rapidly changing world, the people who are not taking risk are the risk takers.” – Robert Kiyosaki

I have never seen a successful entrepreneur who rose to the pinnacle of success without a measurable amount of risk. Successful entrepreneurs are risk takers; they risk their time, energy and resources with the hope of building a successful business. If they fail, they risk losing everything they’ve ever owned. Risk is the main reason many employees fail to start a business.

“You must take risks, both with your own money or with borrowed money. Risk taking is essential to business growth.” – J. Paul Getty

3. They work for free

Working for free is one trait of successful entrepreneurs that set them apart from others. It’s hard to find individuals who will be willing to work for free, without pay for many years but successful entrepreneurs do this. They work on their business for many years without pay.

“You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job and not get paid for it.” – Oprah Winfrey

Being an entrepreneur, I can attest to this trait because I have built businesses without getting a dime from them for some years. All profits generated are re-invested into the business. Before i get paid as an entrepreneur, i must first make sure that my business is running smoothly, then i pay my employees, pay the government and pay my investors. To be a successful entrepreneur, you must always bear in mind that you are not building a job for monthly pay. Instead, you are building an asset that can generate residual income for you and add value to humanity in the coming years.

4. They work longer hours than employees

“I have no complex about wealth. I have worked very hard for my money; producing things people need.” – J. Paul Getty

Successful entrepreneurs are known for their extraordinary resilience and long standing commitment to the course of building a business. Building a business is never easy and it requires time and dedication. Entrepreneurs are known to work for 70 – 80 hours per week while average employees work less than that.

From my own personal experience, i can tell you that this fact is true. I wake up everyday by 5am and go online immediately sending messages to my staff or writing down ideas. By 8am (Mon – Fri), i am in the office and work till 6pm while my staff are dismissed by 4pm. On my way home, i am always online and even while in bed at night, my smartphone and notepad is nearby because ideas may pop into my head at any time. Even at that, i must still spend time with my family. This is my life as an entrepreneur. So if you are going to join the league of successful entrepreneurs, then you definitely need to develop the trait of working longer hours than normal.

“I’m not afraid of turning 80 and I have lots of things to do. I don’t have time for dying.” – Ingvar Kamprad

“My formula for success? Rise early, work late, strike oil.” – J. Paul Getty

5. Successful entrepreneurs learn quickly from mistakes

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It’s best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.” – Steve Jobs

Of all the traits of successful entrepreneurs, this one interests me the most. Many individuals shy away from the game of entrepreneurship because of the fear of making mistakes. They perceive mistakes as bad because mistakes sometimes cost money and pain; so they avoid it like a plague. But successful entrepreneurs see business mistakes as a learning tool; they see it as an opportunity to learn something new.

“Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.” – Henry Ford

Successful entrepreneurs make mistakes in business but they don’t quit. They know mistakes are part of the entrepreneurial process, so they learn quickly from these business mistakes and move on. I strongly believe that if you have not made a mistake in business that cost you money and caused you a few sleepless nights, then you have not really tasted the sour side of entrepreneurship.

“Like success, failure is many things to many people. With positive mental attitude, failure is a learning experience, a rung on the ladder, and a plateau at which to get your thoughts in order to prepare to try again.” – W. Clement Stone

“Excuses cost a dime and that’s why the poor can afford a lot of it.” – Robert Kiyosaki

6. They have the ability to run on debt

“If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.” – J. Paul Getty

As a rule of life, we are all indebted to someone in one way or the other. With respect to building a business, I have never seen a successful entrepreneur that hasn’t been in debt. Everyone owes but successful entrepreneurs know how to use debt to their advantage, they know how to use debt as an instrument and leverage to build a business and get richer.

“Financial leverage is the advantage the rich have over the poor and middle class.” – Rich Dad

“Be careful when you take on debt. If you take on debt personally, make sure it is small. If you take on large debt, make sure someone else is paying for it.” – Rich Dad

7. They are accountable and responsible

Successful entrepreneurs are accountable and responsible for the failure or success of their business. They shoulder the responsibility of piloting the business through its trying times. If they succeed, it becomes a plus to them but if they fail, they will be held responsible.

8. They thrive on criticism

“Dare to risk public Criticism.” – Mary Kay Ash

Another trait successful entrepreneurs share in common is the ability to forge ahead in the face of criticism. Building a business comes with its own challenges; as an entrepreneur, you are bound to be loved and hated by the public. But successful entrepreneurs always devise a means to use every bit of criticism to make themselves better and stronger.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

“Sometimes, I think my most important job as a CEO is to listen for bad news. If you don’t act on it, your people will eventually stop bringing bad news to your attention and that is the beginning of the end.” – Bill Gates

9. Successful entrepreneurs are ambitious

“I Intend to be, the richest man in the world.” – Howard Hughes

Ambition is one of the traits of successful entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs think big and do things big. They are never satisfied with their current achievement; they believe there is always room for constant improvement and they go for it.

“I like thinking big. If you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.” – Donald Trump

I think I am very goal oriented. I’d like to win the America’s cup. I’d like Oracle to be the No 1 software company in the world. I still think it is possible to beat Microsoft.” – Larry Ellison

Mukesh Ambani controls the world’s largest refinery. Lakshmi Mittal built Mittal Steel to become the world’s largest steel producer and Aliko Dangote; the richest man in the world controls the largest cement factory in Africa. Look at Larry Ellison’s ambition to surmount Microsoft. In generality, entrepreneurs are very ambitious personalities.

10. They are opportunist

“War has been good to me from a financial standpoint but I don’t want to make money that way. I don’t want blood money.” – Ted Turner

This is another trait of successful entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs share a common ability to see opportunities, where others see problems. They know that behind every problem lies an opportunity. Successful entrepreneurs are the drivers of creativity and innovation even in the midst of adversity.

“The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets.” – John D. Rockefeller

11. They are great leaders

“If there is such a thing as good leadership, it is to give a good example. I have to do so for all the IKEA employees.” – Ingvar Kamprad

Successful entrepreneurs are great leaders with a well thought leadership strategy. They possess the ability to bring out the best in their employees. They inspire creativity and foster innovation. They also have the ability to hire and lead smarter individuals

“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller

“Punishing honest mistakes stifles creativity. I want people moving and shaking the earth and they are going to make mistakes.” – Henry Ross Perot

12. Successful entrepreneurs are team players

“Individuals don’t win in business; teams do.” – Sam Walton

“Go to the wolf, consider its ways and be wise. A wolf will never hunt alone; it hunts in packs because it knows the power of team work.” – Ajaero Tony Martins

I want to start my own business, I want to be my own boss, I want to do this my own way. These are the words I often hear from people who dream to become entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs know that entrepreneurship and investing are team sports. So they never work alone, they join forces with other entrepreneurs and professional advisers to build a successful business.

In conclusion, these are the 12 traits of successful entrepreneurs which you must possess in order to succeed. Successful entrepreneurs were not born with these traits, they developed them over time. You can also develop these traits, if only you are willing.

Ajaero Tony Martins