Key characteristics of successful entrepreneurs

The word “entrepreneur” is used quite a lot when discussing new technology ideas and startup businesses. But what, really, is an entrepreneur? And how do you tell if you have the characteristics to become one yourself?

Many people dream about being their own boss or having their own company but may not have the personality or entrepreneurial skills to make it work. Successful entrepreneurs share a few key characteristics.

Key characteristics of successful entrepreneurs

  • Entrepreneurs excel at identifying business opportunities and staying focused on opportunities, not problems.
  • They learn from their mistakes.
  • They are action-oriented. They like to get things done and love to turn their ideas into reality.
  • They understand what it takes to succeed and often have a high physical stamina to carry them through their lives and work.
  • Successful entrepreneurs seek outside help to supplement their expertise and their enthusiasm attracts people to their ideas, especially employees, creditors, investors and partners.

Another way to look at an entrepreneur is through the “Ten Ds of an Entrepreneur” as described by William D. Graves. These are the ten key characteristics that most entrepreneurs possess. If you dream of becoming an entrepreneur or turning your technology idea into a business on your own, you might want to consider if you possess these entrepreneurial qualities.

Ten Ds of an entrepreneur

  1. Dream: Entrepreneurs have a vision of what the future could be like for them and their businesses. And, more importantly, they have the ability to implement their dreams.
  2. Decisiveness: They don’t procrastinate. They make decisions swiftly. Their swiftness provides a key factor in their success.
  3. Doers: Once they decide on a course of action, they implement it as quickly as possible.
  4. Determination: They implement their ventures with total commitment. They seldom give up, even when confronted by obstacles that seem insurmountable.
  5. Dedication: They are totally dedicated to their business, sometimes at considerable cost to their relationships with their friends and families. They work tirelessly. Twelve-hour days and seven-day work weeks are not uncommon when an entrepreneur is striving to get a business off the ground.
  6. Devotion: Entrepreneurs love what they do. It is that love that sustains them when the going gets tough. And it is love of their product or service that makes them so effective at selling it.
  7. Details: It is said that the devil resides in the details. That is never more true than in starting and growing a business. The entrepreneur must stay on top of the critical details.
  8. Destiny: They want to be in charge of their own destiny rather than depend on an employer.
  9. Dollars: Getting rich is not the prime motivator of entrepreneurs. Money is more a measure of their success. They assume that if they succeed they will be rewarded.
  10. Distribute: Entrepreneurs distribute the ownership of their businesses with key employees who are critical to the success of the business.

Keep in mind that entrepreneurs do not always make the best managers. They shine at creating businesses but not necessarily at running them once they start to scale. This reality has created the “serial entrepreneur”—one who commercializes his or her new idea once their business hits a certain milestone or size and then brings in“professional management” to run their initial venture.

Often “ideas people” like to focus on experimentation and internal development of the technology. They shy away from the leadership role of focusing on customer prospects, marketing/distribution partners and investors even though this business leadership is necessary to create a viable technology business.

Are you an entrepreneur?

For assistance in determining your potential success as an entrepreneur, the Business Development Bank of Canada provides a self-assessment tool on their website. Additionally, Guy Kawasaki (renowned author, entrepreneur and business expert) has developed a great quiz to determine your EQ (entrepreneurial quotient).

If you conclude that you are an entrepreneur, then get on with living the dream! If you think that this might not fit you, but you have a worthy idea, seek an entrepreneurial partner to work with in building a great business.


Graves, William D. (1994). The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship.  John Wiley & Sons.
Hofstrand, D, (2006, January). What is an Entrepreneur? Ag Decision Maker. Retrieved April 7, 2009, from Iowa State University:
Business Development Bank of Canada. Retrieved April 7, 2009, from