Do you ever wonder what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
Comparing yourself to people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs can be detrimental to your self-esteem. It’s easy to feel like you’ll never be able to achieve nearly as much as they have. The good news? You don’t have to be born with a superhuman trait to be an ultra-successful entrepreneur. Chances are, you already share many of the same characteristics as overachievers like Gates and Jobs.
From Entrepreneur, here are 10 traits of entrepreneurs who built billion-dollar companies:
1. Creative problem solvers
Building a billion-dollar company takes someone who can manage complexity and keep tabs on an ever-changing market and business environment. This is called creative problem-solving, and it’s more important than money for the longevity of your company. You can throw all the cash and resources you have at a problem, but if you can’t find a solution, it will do you no good.
Billion-dollar entrepreneurs set themselves apart by being able to think creatively and make decisions in fast-paced, high-pressure situations. It’s not just a matter of thinking out of the box; it’s often a matter of reconstructing the box from scratch.
The foundation of any successful company begins with having the courage and insight to know when to risk experimentation, while at the same time encouraging creativity and ingenuity among the ranks. Successful implementation will foster innovation, which is key to long-term success.
2. Being true to yourself
Every successful entrepreneur has faced failure and harsh criticism. Sometimes the difference between an entrepreneur who is a runaway success and one plagued with chronic failures is a thick skin and an unyielding belief in one’s self. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to criticism, however.
There are important lessons to be learned by listening to different perspectives. But, you have to have thick enough skin to stay true to your vision; to believe in yourself and what you stand for. If you give up because you let others tear you down, you will always wonder what could have been.
Just think of Walt Disney. Early in his career, Disney was told that he had no good ideas and lacked creativity. What if he had let those naysayers stop him? His vision eventually built one of the world’s largest entertainment conglomerates, responsible for creating many cherished experiences and memories for families the world over.
The key is to be able to listen to criticism, learn from it what you can and then move forward. Don’t let shortsighted opinions hold you back.
3. Well-defined vision
Behind every billion-dollar company is a well-defined vision and a plan to execute it. Long-term success isn’t something you happen into; you have to know what you want to accomplish. Ask yourself what your overarching goal is. Then create a step-by-step outline of how you plan to get there. Without a crystal-clear vision, you are probably fated to be a flop.
Understand that your vision is your opportunity to define who you are as an entrepreneur. What kind of foundation is your business going to be built on? Successful entrepreneurs often have a mantra to keep them focused on the goals they want to accomplish. The first step is to develop a detailed picture in your mind’s eye of making your dreams a reality.
What does your success look like? What do you need to accomplish to reach your goal? Be as detailed as possible when defining your vision, and then set about transforming yourself and your business to make it happen.
4. An eye for talent and team building
Billion-dollar companies may begin with the vision of one person, but it takes a team of people with talent and determination to make that vision a reality.
Carefully cultivating a tenacious and diverse team is essential to creating a large and successful company. In fact, it’s sometimes said that hiring great employees is the single most important thing a founder can do. While skills and knowledge are important when looking to hire, keep in mind that you are crafting a team that must be able to both collaborate and work independently.
Recruiting team members who click is like putting together a puzzle; you have to see the bigger picture to understand how the individual pieces fit. The effort you put into this process will be worth it: An effective team will be an unstoppable force that will drive your organization’s success over the long term.
5. Determination to the point of stubbornness
Wildly successful entrepreneurs are fiercely persistent in pursuing their dreams. Throughout history, mega-companies have often been built by those who are stubborn to the point of obstinacy. For example, Henry Ford was one of the most renowned entrepreneurs of his time, but he had several major missteps before he made it big. He lost the backing of investors and his board of directors dissolved his first company.
But, Ford learned from each failure and became even more determined to realize his dream of building a quality, mass-produced automobile. He eventually came up with the design for the Model T and became one of the wealthiest men in the world. But, without dogged determination, he would have gotten nowhere.
6. Adaptable to change
Successful leaders of billion-dollar companies are never satisfied with the status quo. They understand that change is inevitable and they are driven to keep pushing forward, to try and anticipate what’s coming around the bend.
Building a successful business requires the ability to adapt to suddenly changing circumstances, and also the agility and instinct to seize on opportunities in a shifting landscape. Successful entrepreneurs develop an agility that hinges on critical thinking skills. They thrive within uncertainty, and recognize that flexibility is key to navigating any disruption. Adaptability makes them unsinkable.
Billion-dollar entrepreneurs have developed a sixth sense when it comes to knowing when to take risks. They know there are two kinds of failure: you can fail because you are afraid to pursue your dreams, or you can fail because of a mistake you made, such as not having the right backing or poor money management. You can learn and grow from the second, but if you simply fail to launch, you are defeated before you even begin.
As Nike founder Phil Knight advised: “Play by the rules. But, be ferocious.” In other words, don’t be reckless, but when you decide to do something, go all in. It takes determined action to make something happen.
Repeated failure may be part of that equation, but it will toughen your spirit and you will begin to see the way forward with clarity and purpose. Remember, success cannot happen without failure, so put your fear aside and embrace your venturesome spirit.
8. Learning from and owning up to mistakes
While you are furiously pursuing your dreams, you must hold yourself accountable for your mistakes. Every entrepreneur will have blunders along the way. It’s imperative that you acknowledge them, learn from them and then move on.
Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of earning the respect and esteem of those around them. That’s what sets them apart and puts their companies on a higher level. The first, and arguably most important, step in building a strong reputation is owning your mistakes. Then take appropriate action.
9. Driven to pursue dreams
Prodigious entrepreneurs are driven by a deep desire to prove they have what it takes. Every successful company begins as the brainchild of someone who simply had to see it become reality and was willing to put in countless hours to make it happen.
Whatever it is that you decide to pursue, it must be something you are absolutely passionate about. After all, it should be a thrill to go after your heart’s desire. If you are deeply and truly passionate about something, you’ll have the motivation to see it through.
10. Never stop learning and growing
Constantly learning, evolving and growing as a business leader and as a human being is a key element to becoming a mega-successful entrepreneur. If you want to stay on top of the competitors who are constantly breathing down your neck, you’ve got to stay sharp and be ahead of the game.
The only way to do that is by being adaptable and amenable to change, and the only way to do that is if you’re constantly absorbing new information. Simply put, if you aren’t willing to put the time and effort into constant learning, you’re going to get lapped by your competitors who are.
How did Elon Musk build four multibillion companies by his mid-40s? In part, it was because of his insatiable appetite for learning across multiple fields. He reads voraciously and then applies that knowledge to different areas. He is constantly deconstructing ideas and reconstructing them in new ways. The bottom line is: if you aren’t getting better, you’re falling behind. If you’re not improving, you’re failing.
Stop doubting yourself. Stop comparing yourself to others. If you’re passionate, tenacious, and self-confident, you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
For more business advice and inspiration, head to Entrepreneur.com.