I have found that the founder’s unique set of personal characteristics,

More specifically, the degree of fit between the founder’s personality and the needs of the new venture as it evolves, has a far-reaching im­pact on whether or not his or her goals are achieved. The key is to understand what personal characteristics are most likely to drive suc­cess for your new venture, honestly assess your own personality rel­ative to these characteristics, and decide how to address any significant gaps.

Successful entrepreneurs tend to be:7

■ Commercially Oriented. They are interested in money and business and are driven to achieve bottom-line profitability. They focus on tapping new revenue opportunities and in­stilling their startup with financial discipline and cost - containment.

■ Conceptual. They are idea people, continually unearthing new opportunities. They are “emergent learners,” adaptively learning from experience and experimentation. They are in­telligent, are able to skillfully deal with ambiguity and com­plexity, and have the ability to discern useful patterns from large amounts of information.

■ Independent. They are willing or inclined to strike out on their own. The isolation of entrepreneurship is sometimes inescapable, and every founder must, at times, stand apart from the herd.

■ Achievement Oriented. They are passionate, ambitious, com­petitive, and driven. They love a challenge, enjoy mastering new skills, display a strong work ethic, and set high standards for themselves and others. They are typically bored working for someone else and want to exert control over their envi­ronment.

■ Risk Tolerant. They evaluate and manage calculated risks. They understand that accomplishing significant goals or in­novative breakthroughs usually requires risk-taking, but they evaluate the probability and impact of risks and manage ac­cordingly. They show courage in the face of uncertainty, and

They distinguish internal feelings of anxiety from more ob­jective measures of actual risk.

■ Confident. They understand their own abilities and contri­bution, optimistically but realistically. They are not easily deterred by others’ negativity or criticism, and they demon­strate high self-esteem and possess an internal locus of con­trol, a belief that success will be due largely to their own initiative and efforts rather than to external forces or chance events.

■ Persuasive. They appeal to others’ motives and values by tun­ing in to the needs and interests of others and adapting their message and behavior to match.

■ Resilient. They persistently work to overcome obstacles and do not allow setbacks to derail them. They persevere in the face of adversity.

■ Reliable/Focused. They follow through, delivering on com­mitments to others, as well as to themselves. This is a foun­dational quality for execution, allowing a founder to gain traction and get things done. In most startup situations, this trait must be balanced with flexibility and openness (see “Conceptual”) in order to adapt to new data and unfolding events.

■ People Oriented. They value, understand, and leverage peo­ple. They possess strong social antennae and are gifted at working a room and building lasting relationships. This qual­ity bundles together a number of related traits (amiability, extroversion, empathy, sociability, etc.) that are shaped and honed through early family and social life, as well as work experience.

■ Ethical. They hold themselves to high personal and profes­sional standards. Words and actions are aligned, forming the cornerstone for building trust and credibility with customers, team members, and partners.

How do you stack up against the list? If you are like 99 percent of startup founders, you possess some but not all of the above char­acteristics. This shouldn’t deter you from pursuing your startup goals. Few entrepreneurs cover all the bases when it comes to the perfect entrepreneurial profile. But most highly successful founders under­stand who they are and how their personality matches up with the type and phase of startup they are launching. They then find and col­laborate with people whose personalities and capabilities comple­ment their own.


Resources and Readings

Thanks to Internet search technology and social media interconnec­tivity, answers to most entrepreneurial questions can be found with a few clicks. I have attempted to list sources beyond the usual …

Startup Readiness Tool

This tool can be used to: ■ Evaluate and improve a founding team’s readiness to launch a business ■ Calibrate the timing of a startup effort (accelerate or delay) ■ …


The deepest form of entrepreneurial commitment acknowledges and accepts that there are forces in the marketplace that are beyond the founder’s control, forces that will impact the venture’s destiny for …

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