Career Coach: 4 Lesser-Known Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

by Laura McCamy on February 18, 2014
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Toni Littlestone, owner of Work Vision, has met a lot of entrepreneurs in the past 25 years. As a career coach and counselor, she has worked with hundreds of professionals making job transitions.

Littlestone can rattle off a long list of traits conducive to small-business ownership, from being a self-starter to taking calculated risks. Sound familiar? We suspect so. But a few other characteristics may surprise you.

The Intuit Small Business Blog asked Littlestone for four lesser-known qualities of people who typically succeed at running a business. Here’s what she had to say.

  1. They’re outgoing (or good at faking it). “People who are good at starting a business get good at connecting outward with people in various ways,” Littlestone says. Yes, even introverts, because “if they don’t reach out, they don’t have a business.” That’s because entrepreneurs need to not only market their goods or services, but also build a strong professional network and customer base. “The good news is that people often [come to] enjoy that — it becomes one of the rewards of their business,” she says. “It is a muscle you can build.”
  2. They aren’t wedded to their own ideas. Successful entrepreneurs think about what’s likely to succeed, given their own style and abilities, vs. how to force their amazing concept on the marketplace, she says. In fact, many of her clients have reshaped their business plans accordingly. “The entrepreneur finds the process of figuring out [what the market needs] to be interesting. The pure artist or expert doesn’t,” she says. There is nothing wrong with defending your art, but if you do it at your customers’ expense, then you’re not really an entrepreneur.
  3. They don’t sweat the small stuff. “Good entrepreneurs are not mega-perfectionists. It’s not that they don’t bring some high standards to some parts of their work, but they also have to get it done,” says Littlestone. She recalls working with a client who spent a huge amount of extra (unpaid) time trying to make her client projects absolutely perfect. “The reality was that it was harming her more,” Littlestone recalls. After she stopped worrying about every little detail, “her clients got happier, and she got happier.”
  4. They’re traditionalists. “Being an entrepreneur doesn’t always mean having a cool new idea,” Littlestone asserts, even though Silicon Valley creates the perception that it does. “I have hundreds of clients who are entrepreneurs, and maybe five of them have some cutting-edge kind of idea. The reality is that most entrepreneurs run traditional businesses. The thing they enjoy is being in business.”

Laura McCamy is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California. She writes about small business, real estate, and development. An avid urban bike rider, she also loves to cover bicycling, urban planning, and the intersection of bicycles and business. Follow her on Twitter @lmcwords.

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