What Traits do a Business Owner Need to be Successful?

Well I nearly fell of my chair when I started to jot down the traits a business owner needs to be successful. The first seven post that I’d read, identified no less than 42 different traits a business owner or entrepreneur needs to be successful.

I’m convinced that a business owner that possesses all 42 traits hasn’t been born yet, or is locked up far away to keep him or her away from harm (and society). Nevertheless, I’ve listed the 42 traits somewhere in a table…

The 42 traits I’ve jotted down reading 7 blog posts…

But why a business owner (also [sometimes] called an entrepreneur), needs to be different from an ordinary working person?  Maybe it’s because a business owner earns her living in an extraordinary environment…

The working environment of a business owner

I think there are many readers of this blog who are nursing a secret aspiration to running your own business. And many already own and run businesses. Being in the latter group (business owners) is no mean feat, especially if you’re longer than five years in business. Here’s why.

According to Patrick Henry, writing in the Entrepreneur, 75 percent of venture-backed start-ups fail. He added that the failure rate of all U.S. companies after five years was over 50 percent, and over 70 percent after 10 years.

So why is the dream of owning your own business turning into a nightmare for so many? Maybe it’s because business owners are only human and the challenges and disruptions of the business environment are sometimes too much for them to handle…

The many roles that a small business owner need to fulfill

Unlike a big corporate businesses, small business owners mostly don’t have the resources to employ specialists.  As a result, these owners need to do most management or administrative functions, such as personnel, payroll, sales, marketing, purchasing, distribution, and accounts, on their own 1.

Apart from doing the administrative functions, a small business owner needs to be the strategic leader of her business. For example, she should ask and answers the following questions:

  • Where is my business now?
  • Where do I want my business to be (say in two years’ time)?
  • How will I get there (what do I need)?
  • How will my business survive and grow?

Indeed, to run a small business on her own, the owner needs to have specific traits…

What traits do a business owner need to be successful?

A trait is a distinguishing quality or characteristic, typically one belonging to a person. It’s something about you that makes you “you”, according to Vocabolary.com. Furthermore, few people are born with their survivor traits firmly intact. They are the natural athletes in the game of life and have a natural talent for coping well 3.

The rest of us, however, need to work consciously to develop our abilities.  Especially small business owners.

Owners of new small businesses usually face challenges that are caused by characteristics of their situation 2: (a) extreme uncertainty (newness of products, markets, and organizations; lack of information), (b) resource shortages (financing, knowledge, operating assets, and legitimacy), (c) surprises, and (d) rapid change. Indeed, the new owner quickly needs to identify the gaps, prioritise the issues and developing corrective plans of action.

However, the small business owner is likely to be alone at the start-up, carrying the burden of responsibility on her own. All the uncertainty, pressures and critical decision-making may quickly takes its toll. This usually leads to fatigue.

Andrew Beattie, writing in Investopedia, has this to say about fatigue: “The hours, the work and the constant pressure to perform wears on even the most passionate individuals. Many business owners, even successful ones, get stuck working much longer hours than their employees. Moreover, they fear their business will stall in their absence, so they avoid taking any time away from work to recharge.”

And maybe the reason why so little business start-ups survive past their 7th year is because the business owners did not answer the following questions honestly:

Questions to answer honestly…

  • How do you react when other people criticize your idea? Do you have necessary willpower?
  • Are you willing to cut on your salary, to extend your bond or to use your savings?
  • Will you love doing what you planned to do? Will you do it for 18 hours a day?
  • Do you take the ability to adapt to market- and business environments into account, because of the tendency of these environments to change as soon as growth takes place?
  • How do you handle stress? Does it improve you productivity?
  • What financial, career and personal risks are taken should this opportunity be taken? Are you willing to take calculated risks? Are the benefits worth the risks? Are you willing to take the challenge?

So for me, the most important trait that a small business owner should have is to be honest with herself.


Now that I’m concluding this piece, I’m sure that if you’re lucky enough to possess some of the 42 traits I’ve mentioned previously, they may come handy to cope with difficult business situations. However, it’s important to know that most of the research done on personality traits and business success or failure had to do with entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship has been found to extend beyond small businesses: some large corporations have been described as engaging in entrepreneurial behaviour. Additionally, a person who owns an enterprise is not necessarily an entrepreneur 4.

So small business owners mostly operate in an environment that doesn’t cater for two fundamental entrepreneurial activities: creativity and innovation. But nothing should keep you from learning some of the other traits – albeit just to keep your door open.

By the way, here’s the table with the 42 traits needed and their description:


Drivenrelentlessly compelled by the need to accomplish a goal
Goal-orientedfocuses on tasks and the end results of those tasks
Confidentfeeling or showing confidence in oneself or one's abilities or qualities
Passionatehaving, showing, or caused by strong feelings or beliefs
Self-reliantreliant on one's own powers and resources rather than those of others
Budget-mindedmaking smart decisions when it comes to business finances
Humblehaving or showing a modest or low estimate of one's importance
Willfula stubborn and determined intention to do as one wants
Open-mindedwilling to consider new ideas; unprejudiced
Resilientable to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions
Influentialhaving great influence on someone or something
Focussedpay particular attention to
Emphaticexpressing something forcibly and clearly
Daringadventurous or audaciously bold
Visionan idea or mental image of something
Self-reflectivecapacity to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more
Process-orientedfollowing the the process and protocols
Charismaticexercising a compelling charm which inspires devotion in others
Self-possessionbeing calm, confident, and in control of one's feelings
Riska situation involving exposure to danger
Flexibilitythe extent to which a person can cope with changes in circumstances
Knowledgeableintelligent and well informed
Delegationthe assignment of any responsibility or authority to another person
Sellingpersuade someone of the merits of
Profitabilitythe degree to which a business or activity yields profit or financial gain
Independencea person consistently prefers to act on his/her own thoughts and feelings
Relationships having a strong network
Determinationthe quality of being determined; firmness of purpose
Disruptiona startup founder that seek to disrupt their chosen industry
Team-buildingactivities used to enhance social relations and define roles within teams
Urgencyimportance requiring swift action
Planningthe process of thinking about the activities required to achieve a desired goal
Serve perform duties or services for (another person or an organization)
Ambitioushaving or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed
Opportunisticexploiting immediate opportunities, especially regardless of planning or principle
Prudentacting with or showing care and thought for the future
Innovativeintroducing new ideas; original and creative in thinking
Updatedmake (something) more modern or up to date
Intuitiveusing or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive
Inquisitivehaving or showing an interest in learning things; curious
Leaderthe person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country
Adaptableable to adjust to new conditions

More reading: Bootstrapping – Starting a New Business with Your Own Money

A well researched and written Business Plan helps to get your business started the right way.


1 Butler, D. 2006. Enterprise Planning and Development, Routledge.

2 Baum, J.R. and Locke, E.A. 2004. The relationship of entrepreneurial traits, skill, and motivation to subsequent venture growth, Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(4):587.

3 Siebert, A. 1996. Survivor Personality, Penguin.

4 Carland, J.W., Hoy, F., Boulton, W.R. and Carland, J.A.C. 1984. Differentiating entrepreneurs from small business owners: A conceptualization, Academy of Management Review, 9(2):354-359.


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