Often, entrepreneurs are characterized as the "rock stars" of the business world. This romantic vision is appealing but, like most stereotypes, a far cry from reality. So, what makes a good entrepreneur great? There's no entrepreneurship gene. But a new Ernst & Young survey shows leading entrepreneurs do share common traits, beliefs and approaches that empower them to drive innovation – and economies – around the world.
1. They're made, not born
Fifty-eight per cent of entrepreneurs we surveyed have "transitioned" to entrepreneurship, and one-third say their experience as an employee enabled them to build a successful enterprise of their own. You may not be an entrepreneur yet – but you could be one soon. And everything you're learning now will help along the way.
2. They believe knowledge should be shared
More than three-quarters of Canadian respondents are mentoring other entrepreneurs in some form. They value the lessons learned from these relationships, and they pass that knowledge on. Collaborating like this benefits the teacher, and the student.
3. They know keeping an eye on the cash prize pays off
Accessing funding is the top challenge facing entrepreneurs today, and a real stumbling block to startup success. Those who succeed do so by building strong relationships and thinking outside the financing box, looking for alternatives and opportunities long after the first "no."
4. The best realize there's no I in team
Good entrepreneurs surround themselves with good people – who have the technical and business skills to take the company forward, but also share the leader's values. Survey respondents say finding people who share their vision is challenging but critically important.
5. Success can mean choosing between being rich and being king
All founders of growing companies face a central decision: do they desire wealth or hands-on involvement? The ability to make big picture decisions like these makes or breaks entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs navigate this carefully and move according to their ultimate goal.
6. Some see opportunity where others see disruption
Success lies in the way entrepreneurs view the world. Even disruptions like the financial crisis generated opportunities for entrepreneurial leaders willing to take them. Our survey reveals entrepreneurs have at their core a unique way of viewing the world around them and acting on that view.
7. Failure is best worn as a badge of honour
The extent to which a culture celebrates or stigmatizes failure can make a difference in how entrepreneurial leaders see risk. Early business failures should be seen as providing vital experience for future successes.
8. True entrepreneurs are architects of their own vision
Seventy-six per cent of those surveyed peg vision as the top quality of successful entrepreneurs. Those who succeed have helped people come together around a common purpose to achieve a goal. This comes from a vision owned not only by the people in the business, but also by investors, customers, suppliers and all those the organization touches. The entrepreneurial leader must be the architect of that vision to succeed.
9. Entrepreneurs succeed by seeking to be better
Although innovation is important, filling niches and market gaps does not need to involve radical new solutions. Often, an entrepreneurial business can simply fit a better business model or a more effective way of delivering a product or service. Pushing products, services and people to be better is at the core of the entrepreneur's being.
10. They balance blue skies with the bottom line
To be an entrepreneur, you must not only be an opportunist, but also be an optimist. The world's best entrepreneurs see opportunities and truly believe they can create ways to profit from them. Maintaining a deep-rooted sense of optimism doesn't mean you are unrealistic. But it does allow entrepreneurs to push their ideas harder, sometimes giving them a competitive edge.
Ernst & Young's report, Nature or nurture? Decoding the entrepreneur, is based on a survey of 685 entrepreneurs and in-depth interviews with winners of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award around the world.