Business 101: four attributes of super successful entrepreneurs

There are many nuances and differences that make each entrepreneur unique. File image.

There are many nuances and differences that make each entrepreneur unique. File image.

Published Jun 13, 2024


From the outset, it’s crucial to understand there truly is no winning formula for the “perfect entrepreneur”.

Many entrepreneurs can build business success and penetrate a market due to personal insights, situations, upbringing, experiences as well as strategic and creative thinking.

There are many nuances and differences that make each entrepreneur unique, which is what enables them to produce many “industry-firsts” and brand new, innovative ideas that solve a variety of challenges for their target audience.

With that being said, there are several commonalities that successful entrepreneurs in South Africa and the world share. Not only do they possess strong visions for what they want to achieve and strong leadership skills, but they also have a unique ability to adapt, pivot and innovate their way through rapidly-changing markets. Here are four attributes that make successful entrepreneurs:

1. Knowing how to ‘fail forwards’

Entrepreneurs are known to be some of the most optimistic people around. However, in the back of the mind of every aspiring entrepreneur must be the understanding that failure at some point is (almost) always a possibility. A fitting adage is that “an overnight success doesn’t happen overnight”. There are numerous examples of how this plays out in the real world. Bill Gates founded an unsuccessful data measurement company “Traf-O-Data” which crashed horribly, long before he started Microsoft. More than 30 publishers rejected Ariana Huffington’s second book long before she started her Huffington Post empire.

What the public see in the stories of prominent business figures is only the end result – what they don’t usually realise is that the biggest successes are often preceded by a few failures. The best entrepreneurs know this and they are willing to move forwards in spite of it and able to move forwards armed with key lessons and learnings from their “failures” to ensure they don’t make the same mistakes again.

2. Commitment to ongoing learning

Many entrepreneurs attribute their wins to their unwavering belief in the idea of lifelong learning. Even in cases where they are known to be experts in their field, highly successful entrepreneurs possess a sense of curiosity about the world around them and have a hunger to learn more. An eagerness to invest in learning is known to be one of the most crucial pillars of how to be a successful entrepreneur. This is particularly important for the founders of small businesses, who must often fulfil many different functions during the fledgling stages of their business ventures.

Over time by upskilling, actively seeking out opportunities to learn and develop by asking questions and nurturing a sense of open-mindedness, flourishing entrepreneurs become well-rounded, multi-faceted and multi-skilled individuals and of course – successful business owners.

3. Agility and adaptability

Another imperative attribute that enables successful entrepreneurs to stand out from the rest is their agility and adaptability. In markets that are constantly changing and can shift almost overnight due to fluctuating consumer purchasing behaviours, AI or other external market factors, entrepreneurs need to possess some level of agility.

This skill allows them to pivot their business model should the need arise, while they remain competitive in saturated markets. Adaptability allows them to optimise their critical thinking and problem-solving skills by coming up with new solutions to emerging threats, as well as increase their chances of success. Business owners who are agile enough to make strategic shifts and changes to their approach, while not losing sight of their business plan, vision and mission are likely to find success in ever-changing economies and industries.

4. Emotional Intelligence

In most cases, entrepreneurs will need to lead a team at some point along their journey or they will need to engage with investors, customers or partners. Be it from the onset or later down the line, emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, is an attribute that will see business owners move from strength-to-strength. The reason for this is that entrepreneurs need to be able to build strong relationships. Getting groups of people like investors, partners or customers to buy into you, your business or your product requires strong relationship-building skills. Strong EQ enables successful entrepreneurs to do this more seamlessly, as they are able to connect with people, understand their pain-points and get to grips with their needs.

Furthermore, strong EQ empowers entrepreneurs to communicate effectively with their stakeholders. This includes conveying their brand or company messaging, as well as the intended solution that the business or idea aims to bring, which is essential to attract new customers and grow a business. Effective communication skills, underpinned by a strong EQ paves the way for business owners to have direct and constructive lines of communication with their internal teams and staff, so that should the time come for structural changes to the business or perhaps a leadership change, these business owners are able to manage the process as seamlessly as possible to avoid surging levels of panic and anxiety among staff.

The road to resilient, successful entrepreneurship is never easy, and so finally, strong EQ is crucial, as it allows entrepreneurs to manage their own levels of stress, anxiety and emotions and keep a firm “eye on the prize”.

Ben Bierman is managing director of Business Partners.

Ben Bierman is MD at Business Partners Limited. Photo: Supplied