Three Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs (HBR)

Sometimes when you’re wondering what to do next in life, good advice can come when you least expect it — like when you’re getting your hair cut.

Joan*, the hairstylist giving me a trim, mused aloud about what she was planning to do with her career. Cutting hair was just one part of her livelihood; she was also a professional caregiver as well as the owner of a rig that her husband operated. But her husband was about to retire from the road, and now they were wondering, “What next?”

Over the course of our brief conversation, in no more than the time it took Joan to cut my hair, I picked up on three attributes of her success that are helpful for any entrepreneur:

Practical. Listening to her brainstorm reminded me that successful entrepreneurs know how to keep their feet on the ground. First, they get inspired through personal observation, developing ideas from needs they see in the world around them. Second, they develop a concrete plan. They may work the plan, changing it as they go, but always with an eye towards getting a good return.

Purposeful. People with a practical outlook seek opportunities that add value, as opposed to opportunities that just seem “cool.” (It’s easy to forget this distinction, especially in well-established organizations.) Their focus is offering products and services that customers need and will pay for. For instance, Joan’s second job as a caregiver: that’s a service for which there is always a need.

Impatient. Sure, patience is a virtue in some cases. But for an entrepreneur, so is impatience. Joan is eager to make things happen so that she can continue to earn a good living. When it comes time for her husband to leave the trucking business, she will be ready with another venture. Her gumption and ambition make her impatient for success, and that drive increases her chances of getting there.

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First posted on HBR.org 5/23/2011

VIDEO: The Art of the Sound Bite

Anyone who is seeking to persuade, negotiate, or sell something is wise to learn the art of the sound bite.

Good sound bites are brief, pithy statements that sum up what you are trying to say. Short, sweet and to the point.

Proficient users of sound bites are attuned to their usage. This comes from being well read. Keep up with the issues but also read for pleasure.

The purpose of sound bites is simple — help people remember what you said and why you said it. When concise and colorful they reflect the speaker’s personality and amplify the message.

 

First posted on Smart Brief 5/08/2105

VIDEO: The “I Trust You” Style of Management

“Don’t make me think about it!”

That was some advice an executive I know shared with one of his direct reports. The executive was not being flippant, he was letting his more junior colleague know that he wanted him to come with well-thought out plans of action.

He was delegating decision making to his subordinate and wanted this individual to pick up the ball and run with it.

Such advice is the opposite of micro-management; call it “I trust you” management. It is something that every executive needs to instill in his or her people.

By permitting employees to think and do for themselves, you prepare them for greater levels of responsibility.

First posted on Smart Brief on 10/02/15