The 10 qualities of a successful entrepreneur: which of these are your strengths?

The 10 qualities of a successful entrepreneur: which of these are your strengths?

Friday December 26, 2014,

5 min Read

Entrepreneurship is as important as innovation for national and global economic growth. “Innovation is essential, and we need it. But the real magic starts with entrepreneurs,” according to Gallup Poll’s Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal. “Entrepreneurs create customers. And customers, in turn, create jobs and economic growth,” they add.

Countries need thinkers and doers. “Entrepreneurship is the horse, and innovation is the cart,” Clifton and Badal explain. Creativity, ideas, discovery and innovation are one side of the growth coin – the other side is commercialisation.


Their new book, ‘Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder,’ delves into the psychology of the entrepreneur. What are the personality characteristics and behaviours that lead to venture creation and success? Can one learn to be an entrepreneur, or is it a quality a person is born with?

The book and online questionnaire (accessible by a special code for those who buy the book) help aspiring founders answer these questions to discover their innate entrepreneurial talents along with areas of improvement for individuals and teams. The 161-page book is compact and makes for an engaging and thought-provoking read, for entrepreneurs as well as management consultants and coaches.

Just as there are tests for IQ and sports abilities, the authors advocate conducting tests on students and employees to see who are natural-born entrepreneurs and who can be nurtured to launch startups. This also has implications for transforming cities into innovation hubs; local government leadership and community activism has helped Austin become a creative hub (as compared to Albany).

Each city has its own unique entrepreneurial talent – and each must find it, maximise it, and retain it,” Clifton and Badal advise. This can be done via testing, accelerated development programmes, specialised courses, meaningful internships and coaching.

Gallup conducted research on 2,500 entrepreneurs to understand what it takes to create a business, scale it, make profits and create jobs. The ten key talents of successful entrepreneurs are: business focus, confidence, creative thinking, delegation, determination, independence, knowledge-seeking, promotion, relationship-building and risk-taking.

Some level of talent is innate, some can be nurtured. Each of these traits can be classified in three levels: dominant, contributing and supporting. I have summarised the authors’ description of the ten talents along with challenges and action items in Table 1 below.

Table 1: 10 Talents of Successful Entrepreneurs

TraitsChallengesAction points for maximisation

1. Business focus

Profit-oriented, plan for growth, clear goals, alignment with business, tight operationsCan sometimes lose sight of customersUse timelines and yardsticks, communicate clearly, focus on human element also, read a lot

2. Confidence

Self-awareness, conviction in ability to succeed, action-oriented, pro-activeOver-confidence, haste, over-commitmentPlan ahead, prepare for contingencies, get diverse feedback, avoid the speed trap

3. Creative thinker

Firing off many ideas, curious, quick learner, exploratory, imaginative, alertDifficult to work in a team, rushing off in many directionsBalance present and future, use metrics, prioritise, use simple structure, learn from failures

4. Delegator

Collaborate, recognise and draw on people’s abilities, encourage team contributionAbdicating responsibility, communication gapsMap processes and skills, allow employees to perform, give effective feedback

5. Determination

Persistent, eager to act, confront obstacles, not deterred by roadblocksSticking with failing strategy, regret with  failed stepsShare your optimism, partner with creative types, focus on big picture, be alert to environment

6. Independent

Resolute, faith in self, multi-tasking, responsible, multiple competencies, ‘can-do’Burnout, difficulty in growing the team to scale the enterpriseFocus on main objective, form alliances, delegate, don’t let love for your product blind you

7. Knowledge-seeker

Anticipate and use knowledge, drive for in-depth information, knowledge as an assetGenerating too many new ideas, too many pivotsWrite and share ideas, prioritise, get outside inputs, create a clear roadmap for changes

8. Promoter

Communicator, speaks boldly, storyteller, ambassador, persuasive, enthusiasticBecoming blind to flaws, lack of objectivityRehearse your story, use multiple media, build a whole community of evangelists and champions

9. Relationship-builder

Mutually-beneficial links inside and outside workplace, open, socially aware, integrityTime management, focus, lack of diversity in networksDiversify and renew networks, reciprocity, understand the local social landscape, be selective

10. Risk-taker

Optimistic, rational decisions, charismatic, confident, will to win, can deal with complexityOver-confidence, judgement errors, hasteTake incremental risks, cool off, map knowledge and scenarios, experiment systematically

The book also has a number of inspiring quotes, and it would be good to end this review with the following samples. (See also my pick of the Top 10 Books of 2014 for Entrepreneurs and the app ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible for Apple and Android devices.)

“The thing about inventing is that you have to be both stubborn and flexible, more or less simultaneously.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon

“Do what you are best at and let others take care of the rest.” – Scott Heiferman,

“Don’t assume that you know all the answers. Be prepared to adapt.” – Chad Hurley, YouTube

“I can’t think of anything more fun than connecting people. People make businesses happen. It’s that simple.” – David Bradford

“Face-to-face telling of the right story in the right room at the right time and in the right way can galvanise listeners to action.” – Peter Guber, ex-Sony

“If you are hurt, lick your wounds and get up again.” – Richard Branson

“Creativity + Iterative Development = Innovation.” – James Dyson

About Jim and Dr.Sangeeta:

Jim Clifton is Chairman and CEO of Gallup and author of ‘The Coming Jobs War.’ His most recent innovation, the Gallup World Poll, is designed to give the world’s seven billion citizens a voice in virtually all key global issues. Gallup has expanded from the U.S. and has 40 offices in 30 countries and regions. Clifton is also the creator of The Gallup Path, a metric-based economic model for the workplace, customer engagement and business outcomes.

Dr. Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal is the primary researcher for Gallup’s Entrepreneurship and Job Creation initiative, specially focused on SMBs. She is the author of the book ‘Gender, Social Structure and Empowerment: Status Report of Women in India.’ She earned her doctorate in anthropology and geography from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).