A man and a woman stand smiling in the doorway of a shop. The woman holds an OPEN sign.
The right personality traits can put your entrepreneurial endeavor on the fast track to success. — Getty Images/Cecilie_Arcurs

A big idea, a lot of hard work, a little luck, some good timing. It could all add up to a successful business. But what traits make up the entrepreneur at the heart of it? It depends on who you ask. Here are six traits that entrepreneurs and experts believe are the key strengths of a great entrepreneur.

[Read more: 5 Small Business Owners Offer Their Best Advice for Starting a Business]


No less an authority than Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban puts salesmanship at the top of his must-have list of traits for successful entrepreneurs. The ability to convince others is an obvious requirement when you consider the diverse groups an entrepreneur will need to sell on the value of a big idea.

Selling family should come first, according to Inc. Next will come investors, potential partners, suppliers, employees and customers. Some of this selling will be ongoing for the life of your business and Cuban warns against believing otherwise.


Successful entrepreneurs demonstrate flexibility in any number of ways. A willingness to collaborate, for example, shows an ability to accept the ideas of other team members. Pivoting is another way to exhibit flexibility. Forbes describes no less than nine types of pivots, and lists them all as key to entrepreneurial success.

Cheesemaker and animal sanctuary owner Sheila Flanagan can attest to the need for flexibility. The award-winning artisan cheeses she crafts at Nettle Meadow Farm in Thurman, New York, have been featured in Esquire, New York Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. The actual making of cheese, however, is just one aspect of Flanagan’s business. There are animals to care for, buildings to maintain, customers to court and orders to fulfill. Whether it’s something as big as a pandemic or as small as an out-of-commission label printer, Flanagan thrives on dealing with the unexpected and considers flexibility critical to her company’s long-term survival. “As your company grows,” Flanagan says, “you are guaranteed to need to dig deep into your flexibility store.”

[Read more: Switching from Live to Virtual Events? Here’s How to Make the Pivot]

If you’re not passionate about your idea, how can you envision it solving a problem, or sell it to an investor?


By any other name—curiosity, ingenuity, imagination or vision—creativity is key to the success of an entrepreneur. Just ask Simon Sinek, who believes that, ultimately, entrepreneurs are problem solvers.

Stanford University’s Tina Seelig agrees and advocates teaching business students creative problem-solving. Imagination, she posits, is the ability to envision things that don’t exist while creativity is about the ability to apply that imagination to address a challenge. Entrepreneurship, Seelig says, is about applying innovation at a scale that inspires the imaginations of others—problem-solving writ large.

Digital media consultant John Boitnott, a member of Entrepreneur’s Leadership Network, has creativity at the very top of his entrepreneurial attributes list. He believes the more you use your creativity—specifically to make useful connections—the more creative and productive you will become.


Both Monster and Indeed top their lists of entrepreneurial personality traits with self-motivation, and it’s hard to argue with that placement. The ability to jump into the fray and remain there day after day without prodding from another person is what we think of when we picture an entrepreneurial spirit.

While Scott Galloway, author, professor and entrepreneur behind L2 Inc. and Red Envelope, agrees self-motivation is requirement one, he phrases it a little differently. “Can you sign the front and not the back of checks?” Galloway asks. Reminding would-be entrepreneurs that not only will they need their own motor, at least in the short-term, it will have to be something besides money that keeps it running.


Whether you call it persistence, determination or doggedness, successful entrepreneurs push forward in spite of obstacles and setbacks. To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, nothing is worth doing unless it comes with difficulties.

Kathy Miller would certainly agree. She launched her gift business, Love is on Lake George, nearly ten years ago—a lifetime in the small business arena. Miller ships the Adirondack-themed gifts she designs to customers all across the country and attributes her long-term success to hard work and tenacity. “We strive never to lose sight of our goals, both short- and long-term,” Miller says, despite the obstacles that come up daily.


What necessity is to the inventor, passion must be to the entrepreneur, and it should be on every list of entrepreneurial attributes. If you’re not passionate about your idea, how can you envision it solving a problem, or sell it to an investor? How can you pivot on a dime without losing your focus? Without passion, how could you motivate yourself over the long haul?

According to a psychological study of entrepreneurship within organizations, passion isn’t simply another personality trait. It’s the fuel that powers all of the others. The same is true for individuals. Passion fuels the creativity, the tenacity, the salesmanship. Show me a successful entrepreneur and I’ll show you a person with a passion for business.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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