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10 qualities that make a great entrepreneur

January 02, 2015 09:30 IST

Entrepreneurs, like great leaders, are not born. They are made.

What are the qualities that define a great entrepreneur from an average one? Read on to find out..

How to be a great entrepreneurEntrepreneurship is as important as innovation for national and global economic growth.

"Innovation is essential, and we need it. But the real magic starts with entrepreneurs," according to Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal of Gallup Poll, a market research and consultancy firm.

"Entrepreneurs create customers. And customers, in turn, create jobs and economic growth," they add.

Countries need thinkers and doers.

"Entrepreneurship is the horse, and innovation is the cart," Clifton and Badal explain.

Creativity, ideas, discovery and innovation are one side of the growth coin -- the other side is commercialisation.

Their new book, Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder, delves into the psychology of the entrepreneur.

What are the personality characteristics and behaviours that lead to venture creation and success?

Can one learn to be an entrepreneur, or is it a quality a person is born with?

The book and online questionnaire (accessible by a special code for those who buy the book) help aspiring founders answer these questions to discover their innate entrepreneurial talents along with areas of improvement for individuals and teams.

The 161-page book is compact and makes for an engaging and thought-provoking read, for entrepreneurs as well as management consultants and coaches.

Just as there are tests for IQ and sports abilities, the authors advocate conducting tests on students and employees to see who are natural-born entrepreneurs and who can be nurtured to launch start-ups.

This also has implications for transforming cities into innovation hubs; local government leadership and community activism has helped Austin become a creative hub (as compared to Albany).

"Each city has its own unique entrepreneurial talent -- and each must find it, maximise it, and retain it," Clifton and Badal advise.

This can be done via testing, accelerated development programmes, specialised courses, meaningful internships and coaching.

Gallup conducted research on 2,500 entrepreneurs to understand what it takes to create a business, scale it, make profits and create jobs.

The ten key talents of successful entrepreneurs are: business focus, confidence, creative thinking, delegation, determination, independence, knowledge-seeking, promotion, relationship-building and risk-taking.

Some level of talent is innate, some can be nurtured.

Each of these traits can be classified in three levels -- dominant, contributing and supporting.

I have summarised the authors' description of the ten talents along with challenges and action items. Read on...

1. Business focus

Traits: Profit-oriented, plan for growth, clear goals, alignment with business, tight operations

Challenges: Can sometimes lose sight of customers

Action points for maximisation: Use timelines and yardsticks, communicate clearly, focus on human element also, read a lot

2. Confidence

Traits: Self-awareness, conviction in ability to succeed, action-oriented, pro-active

Challenges: Over-confidence, haste, over-commitment

Action points for maximisation: Plan ahead, prepare for contingencies, get diverse feedback, avoid the speed trap.

3. Creative thinker

Traits: Firing off many ideas, curious, quick learner, exploratory, imaginative, alert

Challenges: Difficult to work in a team, rushing off in many directions

Action points for maximisation: Balance present and future, use metrics, prioritise, use simple structure, learn from failures.

4. Delegator

Traits: Collaborate, recognise and draw on people's abilities, encourage team contribution

Challenges: Abdicating responsibility, communication gaps

Action points for maximisation: Map processes and skills, allow employees to perform, give effective feedback.

5. Determination

Traits: Persistent, eager to act, confront obstacles, not deterred by roadblocks

Challenges: Sticking with failing strategy, regret with failed steps

Action points for maximisation: Share your optimism, partner with creative types, focus on big picture, be alert to environment.

6. Independent

Traits: Resolute, faith in self, multi-tasking, responsible, multiple competencies, 'can-do'

Challenges: Burnout, difficulty in growing the team to scale the enterprise

Action points for maximisation: Focus on main objective, form alliances, delegate, don't let love for your product blind you.

7. Knowledge-seeker

Traits: Anticipate and use knowledge, drive for in-depth information, knowledge as an asset

Challenges: Generating too many new ideas, too many pivots

Action points for maximisation: Write and share ideas, prioritise, get outside inputs, create a clear roadmap for changes.

8. Promoter

Traits: Communicator, speaks boldly, storyteller, ambassador, persuasive, enthusiastic

Challenges: Becoming blind to flaws, lack of objectivity

Action points for maximisation: Rehearse your story, use multiple media, build a whole community of evangelists and champions.

9. Relationship-builder

Traits: Mutually-beneficial links inside and outside workplace, open, socially aware, integrity

Challenges: Time management, focus, lack of diversity in networks

Action points for maximisation: Diversify and renew networks, reciprocity, understand the local social landscape, be selective.

10. Risk-taker

Traits: Optimistic, rational decisions, charismatic, confident, will to win, can deal with complexity

Challenges: Over-confidence, judgement errors, haste

Action points for maximisation: Take incremental risks, cool off, map knowledge and scenarios, experiment systematically.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

Madanmohan Rao