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Five Traits of Successful Business Starters

Posted: April 29, 2011, 5:40 p.m., EDT

As a serial entrepreneur who has founded four companies in the pet industry, I have often asked myself "What drives me to start these businesses when so many people are content to sit behind a desk and work for someone else?” Many of you may ask yourselves the same thing: Was I born or made this way?

The Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship at Southern Methodist University (and my alma mater) recently tackled this question in an informative article in its alumni magazine. The director, Jerry White, has been teaching a class on entrepreneurship at SMU for 30 years and certainly has formed his opinion regarding "born versus made.” He believes it is a combination of both genetic factors and learned skills/behavior. But regardless of where your entrepreneurial flair comes from, Jerry White believes successful entrepreneurs share these five unique traits:

1. Relentlessly Pursue Growth. A true entrepreneur pursues opportunities without regard to resource constraints. "If I need it, I’ll get it,” White emphatically explains. "Entrepreneurship implies growth.”

2. Have Stamina. High-performance entrepreneurs are typically realistic individuals who possess a never-ending sense of urgency. They don’t waste time agonizing over failure. Instead, they view circumstances as they exist and resolve to leverage them to their advantage (or write a book, which is what I did after suffering through the worst failure of my career).

3. Write Your Own Rules. Entrepreneurs typically have superior capacity to analyze complex situations and think creatively to solve problems. They thrive well in chaotic environments (What’s more chaotic then a pet store?), and make sound decisions when confronted with conditions characterized by a scarcity of relevant information. "If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be able to live on the edge; to be looking where no one else is looking, where the rules have yet to be written, and where a market hasn’t yet been established,” claims Scott Walker, CEO of ProCore Labs and true serial entrepreneur.

4. Take Challenges, But Don’t Gamble. The stereotype of entrepreneurs as bold risk takers--gamblers who bet the farm on a long shot--is more cliché then reality. "Long-term, successful entrepreneurs are moderate risk takers,” White insists. "On the average, gamblers are losers. It is more helpful to talk about entrepreneurs as challenge takers, rather than risk takers.”

5. Remain Disciplined, Not Distracted. Successful entrepreneurs stay very focused on solving problems, and they assiduously avoid distractions from side issues. They face challenges head on, often reveling in the challenge of making game-changing decisions. Yet what many aspiring entrepreneurs may not realize is that coming up with a world-changing idea and developing a company is the easy part. The tough part involved the discipline of execution. In plain and simple terms: It’s all about the execution.

There are a million ideas out there; being a true entrepreneur is taking that idea and creating a viable, profitable company around that idea.

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