A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
1. You take action.
Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group and co-star of TV’s Shark Tank, says people who have a concept but not necessarily a detailed strategy are more likely to have that entrepreneurial je ne sais quoi. “I hate entrepreneurs with beautiful business plans,” she says.
2. You’re scared.
“Many entrepreneurs judged as ambitious are really insecure underneath,” Corcoran says. When evaluating potential investments, she adds, “I want someone who is scared to death.” Those who are nervous about failing can become hyperfocused and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. If you feel insecure, use that emotion to drive you to achieve your business goals.
3. You’re resourceful.
“One of my favorite TV shows growing up was MacGyver,” confides Tony Hsieh, lifelong entrepreneur and CEO of Las Vegas-based Zappos, “because he never had exactly the resources he needed but would somehow figure out how to make everything work out. Ultimately, I think that’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.” It’s not about having enough resources, he explains, but being resourceful with what you do have.
4. You obsess over cash flow.
Prior to founding Brainshark, a Waltham, Mass.-based provider of sales productivity software, Joe Gustafson bootstrapped a venture called Relational Courseware. “All I ever thought about was cash flow and liquidity,” he admits. “There were seven times in [the company’s] eight-year history when I was days or hours away from payroll and didn’t have enough cash to make it.”
5. You don’t ask for permission.
Stephane Bourque, founder and CEO of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Incognito Software, says true entrepreneurial types are more likely to ask for forgiveness than permission, forging ahead to address the opportunities or issues they recognize.
“Entrepreneurs are never satisfied with the status quo,” says Bourque, who discovered he was not destined for the corporate world when his new and better ways of doing things were interpreted as unwanted criticism by his bosses.
6. You’re fearless.
Where most avoid risk, entrepreneurs see potential, says Robert Irvine, chef and host of Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible. True ’treps are not afraid to leverage their houses and run up their credit card balances to amass the funds they need to create a new venture. In some ways, he says, they are the ultimate optimists, because they believe that their investments of time and money will eventually pay off.
7. You welcome change.
“If you have only one acceptable outcome in mind, your chances of making it are slim,” cautions Rosemary Camposano, president and CEO of Silicon Valley chain Halo Blow Dry Bars. She says that if you are willing to listen, your clients will show you which of your products or services provide the most value.
8. You love a challenge.
When confronted by problems, many employees try to pass the buck. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, rise to the occasion. “Challenges motivate them to work harder,” says Jeff Platt, CEO of the Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park franchise. “An entrepreneur doesn’t think anything is insurmountable … He looks adversity in the eye and keeps going.”
9. You consider yourself an outsider.
Entrepreneurs aren’t always accepted, says Vincent Petryk, founder of J.P. Licks, a Boston chain of ice-cream shops. They may be seen as opinionated, quirky and demanding—but that is not necessarily a bad thing. “They are often rejected for being different in some way, and that just makes them work harder,” Petryk says. Case in point: Rather than copying what most other ice-cream shops were doing, including buying from the same well-known suppliers, Petryk forged his own path for J.P. Licks, developing made-from-scratch desserts in bold flavors.
10. You recover quickly.
It’s a popular notion that successful entrepreneurs fail fast and fail often. For Corcoran, the trick is in the speed of recovery: If you fail, resist the urge to mope or feel sorry for yourself. Don’t wallow; move on to the next big thing immediately.
11. You listen.
Actress Jessica Alba, co-founder and president of Santa Monica, Calif.-based The Honest Company, which sells baby, home and personal-care products, notes that “it’s important to surround yourself with people smarter than you and to listen to ideas that aren’t yours. I’m open to ideas that aren’t mine and people that know what I don’t, because I think success takes communication, collaboration and, sometimes, failure.”
12. You focus on what matters (when you figure out what matters).
“Entrepreneurs fall down and pick themselves up until they get it right,” says Micha Kaufman, co-founder and CEO of the fast-growth online freelance marketplace Fiverr. During Fiverr’s launch, instead of trying to deal with “an endless number of potential challenges,” Kaufman and his team focused on “the single biggest challenge every marketplace has: building liquidity. Without liquidity, there is no marketplace.”