10 Strengths of Outstanding Entrepreneurs

The path to success is to stop talking and start acting. -Walt Disney

What strengths, mindsets, or good habits do we need to be successful in business, in our careers, or even in politics? If we study and analyze these strengths, we can use this data to improve our own qualities and address our weaknesses.

10 Strengths of Outstanding Entrepreneurs

There are many lists and opinions about what are really the qualities of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. In the upcoming September 2014 issue of Inc. magazine, Leigh Buchanan published a thought-provoking article titled “Inside the Mind of the Entrepreneur,” which highlights the top 10 strengths of American entrepreneurs behind the Inc. 500 list of companies. This is the annual ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States. The 500 had a staggering average growth rate of 1,828 percent, which is all the more amazing in the context of the U.S. economy, whose growth has slowed in recent years.

Who are these CEOs of Inc. 500 companies? More than 90 percent of these CEOs are also the founders of their companies, 72 percent are serial entrepreneurs, and 21 percent started their first company before the age of 20. These people describe themselves as “unemployable,” but the reason is that other companies can’t keep them.

According to the magazine, this year’s list measures revenue growth from 2010 to 2013, and to qualify, businesses had to have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2010. In addition, as of Dec. 31, 2013, these companies had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for-profit, and independent – not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies. The minimum revenue required for 2010 is $100,000, and $2 million for 2013.

Here are the top 10 strengths of America’s best entrepreneurs in Inc. 500 companies, with the magazine’s descriptions and my own comments:

10 Strengths of Outstanding Entrepreneurs

1. Risk-taker. “Takes on challenges with enthusiasm, estimates risk very optimistically, takes a rational approach to decision making to mitigate risk.”

Risk-taking doesn’t have to be suicidal or an irrational death wish, but actual calculated risks. Personally, I believe entrepreneurs need to listen to others, such as accountants, financiers, and even contrarians, to balance their overzealous risk-taking, because no one has a monopoly on wisdom and information.

2. Business focus. “Emphasizes profits, goals, and metrics; aligns employees with business goals.”

This is a strength that I have observed many billionaires and even world champions possess in various fields from the arts to sports – an all-consuming focus. In fact, I believe that some of the world’s best entrepreneurs still dream about their business projects or deals in their sleep.

3. Determination. “Tremendous work ethic confronts obstacles and overcomes them, undeterred by obstacles and roadblocks.”

Iron determination is a strength I have observed in countless top entrepreneurs here in the Philippines or abroad, no matter what daunting or seemingly insurmountable difficulties they have faced. Sometimes I suspect that the more difficult the circumstances and crises, the more they are motivated and challenged.

4th Delegator. “Willingly delegates authority and responsibility, proactively collaborates, recognizes and uses the skills of others.”

I think in much of Asia, even here in the Philippines, this is still a weakness of many first-generation entrepreneurs or business founders who are used to being in charge in an almost dictatorial or authoritarian manner. The way to delegate is to train your people and hire or invite talented people to join your business or organization, even people who are better educated than yourself.

5. Thirsty for knowledge. Acquires business-relevant, sound information; uses knowledge as a competitive advantage; anticipates information needs.” Whether entrepreneurs or other professionals, we should all be incessant learners.

6. creative thinker. “Thinks outside the box, develops ideas, explores options, thinks through problems.” Don’t just think outside the box, think there is no box.

7. Self-confidence. “Presents well takes initiative, believes in his or her ability to build businesses.” I believe that before someone can conquer a field or arena, he or she should first conquer himself or herself and build unshakable self-confidence.

8. Promoter. “Speaks boldly on behalf of the company, communicates the company vision effectively.” I always tell my students, as well as the audiences to whom I am invited to speak, that effective communication is a magical advantage for any profession and that there is no better way to improve one’s communication skills than through constant reading.

9. Self-reliance. “Self-reliant can handle multiple tasks well, a strong sense of responsibility.” Entrepreneurs need to be self-reliant, not emotional crybabies.

10. Relationship building. “High social awareness; develops mutually beneficial relationships; open, positive demeanor.”

It is tragic that there are some “successful” people who do not care about their families, their communities, their civic responsibilities, and their society.

I firmly believe that many of the world’s best entrepreneurs, professionals, and leaders can be good relationship builders if we develop our emotional quotient or EQ.

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