KEY ATTRIBUTES OF A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl
It has been 56 years since Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and 50 years since Gene Wilder portrayed the fictional quintessential entrepreneur, Willy Wonka in the movie based upon the children’s book. In that story, Wonka exhibited several attributes that many entrepreneurs possess, and there certainly are important entrepreneurial lessons to be taken from the movie and book. Thinking differently, the tenacity of being an underdog (Charlie), and good overcoming evil are omnipresent throughout both the book and movie. Another underlying message is the importance of integrity, a general understanding that entrepreneurs are a bit quirky, and that with great imagination comes amazing inventions. Perhaps most critical, is the clarity by which Wonka engages in creativity, or applied imagination. He doesn't simply talk about his ideas, he takes action, with resources that are readily available to him. Of course, the story is largely about entrepreneurial succession. Wonka, a lifelong entrepreneur is searching for the right person to take over his enterprise. He elects to concentrate his search among children, because he knows that they are able to capture great imagination, still have the ability to dream, and are not yet bound by societal restrictions that inhibit innovation.
A while back, I read an interesting blog post by Jay Goltz titled “Six Attributes of Successful Entrepreneurs”. Goltz identified ambition, creativity, tenacity, risk tolerance, intuition, and personality as the six most important entrepreneurial attributes. As I reflected on my own life as an entrepreneur, and the many entrepreneurs I have met throughout my career, I must say that this list is on point. It is not to say that in order to be an entrepreneur one must have all of these qualities, or that having all of these attributes guarantees success as an entrepreneur. Instead, the list is a guide to help determine if you are abundant in these critical areas that might help one consider entrepreneurship. After all, having these attributes alone does not make a person an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is not a dreamer, but rather someone that is able to take the leap, and attempt to convert a dream into a reality (a.k.a., a doer).
While the field of entrepreneurship has made great strides in stressing the importance of validating a business model before one launches into business, there still exists a certain leap of faith mantra that entrepreneurs retain, a belief in magic of sorts. Still, having these qualities, but failing to be able to act on your ideas, doesn’t make you a bad person, but it certainly places you more in the category of a dreamer, than an entrepreneur.
For those that have either read the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or seen the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, you know that Wonka certainly demonstrated ambition, creativity, tenacity, risk tolerance, intuition, and most certainly has an abundance of personality. However, I believe one critical attribute that entrepreneurs must possess, is absent from Goltz’s list, so I am writing this blog to build upon that nearly complete list of attributes in the hope that others will read this blog, and add their own suggestions. The attribute I think is most important is adaptability. The ability to be flexible, change course quickly, and be capable of adjusting to unforeseen uncertainties is, in my humble opinion paramount to being a successful entrepreneur. The future is certainly unknown, and there is great debate over whether a consistent method to being able to predict into the future exists. Therefore, being able to quickly adapt to real time circumstances as they unfold, most often without warning, is something all entrepreneurs must be proficient at.