What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?

Janice Riley

In today’s world of companies like Amazon, Facebook and Uber, as well as TV shows like Shark Tank and The Profit, starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur is on almost everyone’s mind. Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers alike all dream of running their own business and being the next overnight success.

The question is: What does it take to build a successful company, to be a true entrepreneur?

From college degrees in entrepreneurship to a plethora of podcasts, you can acquire education and training to prepare you for starting and managing your own business. Locally, the members of the Entrepreneur Council of Washington County include SCORE Hagerstown, Western Maryland Small Business Development Center, Washington County Department of Business Development, City of Hagerstown Department of Community and Business Development, Maryland Technology Development Corp., Washington County Chamber of Commerce, and the Technical Innovation Center at Hagerstown Community College. All of these organizations conduct seminars, workshops, conferences and individual coaching sessions with small businesses and startups to help build the local economy. There is help available to assist with growing your company.

Drilling down to the core of the success question, what are the traits and behaviors that drive an individual to start, sustain and grow a successful company? Do entrepreneurial attitudes toward autonomy, risk, work and income affect business outcomes?

Gallup studied this conundrum a few years ago and published a book on its findings. In “Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder,” Gallup studied 2,500 entrepreneurs to understand the actions and decisions that lead to venture creation and growth. By conducting many interviews, surveys and analysis, Gallup determined there are 10 talents in highly successful entrepreneurs:

• Business Focus: You make decisions based on observed or anticipated effect on profit.

• Confidence: You accurately know yourself and understand others.

• Creative Thinker: You exhibit creativity in taking an existing idea or product and turning it into something better.

• Delegator: You recognize that you cannot do everything and are willing to contemplate a shift in style and control.

• Determination: You persevere through difficult, even seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

• Independent: You are prepared to do whatever needs to be done to build a successful venture.

• Knowledge-Seeker: You constantly search for information that is relevant to growing your business.

• Promoter: You are the best spokesperson for the business.

• Relationship-Builder: You have high social awareness and an ability to build relationships that are beneficial for the firm’s survival and growth.

• Risk-Taker: You instinctively know how to manage high-risk situations.

Your ability to function in each of these areas determines your entrepreneurial success. If you are not as strong in one area, you can solve that problem by partnering with others who have those strengths. Put strategies in place to address those concerns.

Obviously, the 10 talents do not address the need for the three pillars of business success. Those pillars are core competency; access to capital; and market insight/legislative policy. You still need the basic knowledge, skills and expertise for your product or service. You need funding. You need to be aware of what is happening in the market and in government policy.

By combining all of these, you have the key to success as an entrepreneur.

Janice Riley is manager of the Hagerstown Community College Technical Innovation Center. Her email is jiriley@hagerstowncc.edu.