UK: From Garage To Greatness: Four Traits Of Successful Entrepreneurs

Last Updated: 22 October 2014
Article by Mike McGregor

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

Today's SMEs are the household names of tomorrow. Those were the words of Vince Cable as the UK Government launched the GrowthAccelerator for small businesses two years ago. 

Entrepreneurs have an incredibly important role to play in making this happen. The Apple Watch is a timely reminder of that fact. So what is it that makes a successful entrepreneur? 

What started out as Steve Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, building computers in the former's parents' garage has gone on to become the most valuable company in the world. Even without his leadership, the future continues to look bright for Apple.

In partnership with Entrepreneurial Scotland and The Herald, next month we'll be celebrating the role that people like these play in business at the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. We're looking forward to another year of the competition. It's a great opportunity to recognise the future of business and the companies which have really made a difference in Scotland over the last 12 months.

A question that we are often asked is: what makes entrepreneurs different? Like the word itself, this has undoubtedly evolved over time. Richard Cantillon is most commonly attributed the first use of the word. He used it in one of his most famous pieces, Essay on the nature of commerce, describing it as anyone who bought or made a product at a certain cost to sell at an uncertain price in the future.

In his time, it was a fairly generic term that could be applied to farmers, chimney sweeps, or more or less any other self-employed person. But what makes a modern entrepreneur? Having seen quite a few success stories come through the competition in recent years, there have definitely been some common traits among the participants.

  1. Demonstrate determination – As many entrepreneurs know well, it's not easy starting up your own business. Things don't always go to plan. In fact, there are undoubtedly going to failures along the way. However, entrepreneurs take these head on each time, learn from them, and keep going. Nothing stops them from achieving their vision.
  2. See opportunity – Entrepreneurs see opportunity and do something about it. Instead of merely pointing out the failures of other businesses or blaming the market, they try to improve things or colonise a space that was previously untouched. They have an uncanny ability to identify areas that have previously been overlooked or find a way of doing things differently.
  3. Be flexible – I've already mentioned that not everything will go to plan when you set up your own business. That means successful entrepreneurs need to adapt and change to the times. That takes the ability to admit when something isn't going to work and make changes to a business plan before it becomes a problem. That being said, it's increasingly becoming a key trait of all business leaders, given how quick markets and customer needs change these days.
  4. Believe in yourself – Last but not least, entrepreneurs need to have self-belief. There will be tough times ahead that will require difficult decisions to be made, and entrepreneurs are ready to overcome these challenges. They believe in themselves, their products, and the fact that the world needs what they are offering. There will be rejection along the way, but entrepreneurs know how to take that and move on. After all, Steve Jobs was fired from his own company before it became what it is today.

As we look ahead to the big event, I'd be keen to hear your thoughts. What do you think makes a great entrepreneur and what characteristics are crucial to success?

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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