This is follow-up post 2 of 4 to my original survey.  In interested, here is the previous recap:

  • Survey follow-up 1 of 4 (Review of necessary and supporting qualities)

It’s hard to believe it’s been a couple weeks since I first wrote on the entrepreneurial qualities survey, but time flies quickly this time of year.  In that post, I took a look at the basic results of what got voted as a necessary quality, and shared my thoughts as to whether there were any surprises to be found.  Since I also took a quick look at the supporting qualities as well, I don’t really see a need to examine them separately.

So in this post, I thought I’d take a look at the comments that were left to see if there were any good qualities that were missed in the original survey.

This is a moderately lengthy post with a lot of good comments on entrepreneurial qualities.  If you don’t have the time right now, you may want to save this post for a bit later.  However, I do have one request – towards the end of the post I do ask for your comments on one particular topic.  If you have just a couple minutes, I would appreciate you reading the section titled “Humor”, and leaving me a comment on the question I ask.  As always, I appreciate your input.

So let’s step through the comments and see what pops up.

Risk

Ready to take risks

It’s funny that this should be the first comment as other than Passion, risk-taking is the quality most often talked about with respect to entrepreneurs.  I’m not sure then, how I left it off my original list, but it definitely should be there.  I’m tempted to say that the risk-taking quality is embedded in Courage (which was on the list), but something tells me they are different.  So I think this is a good catch and will add something covering risk-taking to the list.

Innovation

Innovation Self-motivation Self-starter

Three more good qualities for entrepreneurs.  Self-starter I think is captured in the current quality of Initiative.  Self-motivation likewise is another way of saying Discipline, which is on the list.  Innovation is interesting to me.  The closest thing we currently have is Creativity, which clearly is not the same as Innovation.  My sense is Innovation is probably a better quality for an entrepreneur and could replace creativity, or at least co-exist.

Integrity

I think Honesty, Integrity and Ethics are a must to be successful long term. Anyone can get lucky once and MAYBE twice, but to sustain yourself and your reputation for future ventures these are critical.

and

I think I didn’t see honesty or ethical on the list. I want to say that trust building is a major quality of an entrepreneur and you have to build trust fast. I find that people decide whether they want to work with me during the first few minutes based on how they feel about me. I don’t know if this is the situation for all it is definitely true for me. I can’t wait to see your results

Great comments, and I’m glad you made them.  All three of these important qualities, along with Truth, mean different things to different people.  Heck, they mean different things to the same person in different situations sometimes.  I just wrote about a huge difference of opinion as to the responsibility of an entrepreneur offering a free online service.  I think a big part of the point you are making is contained in the quality Character (even though Character was not voted a critical quality), but certainly you are taking the point further.

could make the argument that Integrity is neither a necessary nor supporting quality for successful entrepreneurship.  One has to look no further than our own P. T. Barnum.  While contrary to popular opinion, he never uttered the infamous phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute“, much of his fortune was built on showmanship of dubious quality.  And I’m sure P. T. isn’t the only example of successful, less than honest, entrepreneurs.

I could make that argument, but I won’t.  Since this is my blog I get to make the rules and one of the rules around here is we are interested in positive growth and personal excellence.  I also happen to agree with both commentator’s premise that Integrity is critical for both building initial trust and holding onto customer relationships in the long term.

Leadership

Did we talk about: Leadership Customer centric Culture that he wants to bring in to his company.

Leadership – Doh!  Yes, I suppose that would be good for an entrepreneur, and is another obvious quality I missed.  Many entrepreneurs of course, don’t have it and some successful entrepreneurs aren’t very good at it, but most entrepreneurs I’ve worked with do have it.  For those that are a bit weak, then a good strategy is to constitute a strong advisory panel early on or align yourself with trusted counselors.

On customer-centric culture, I’m guessing the comment is meant to convey an understanding that the startup’s ultimate goal is to make money through selling to customers; and for many an entrepreneur that is the case.  There are of course, many different flavors of startups, and a variety of different business models.  The assumption here is the goal of every entrepreneur is self-sufficiency and profitability through market adoption, which I’m not sure it would be a realistic carte blanche assessment of the entrepreneurial community. I also think there is a difference between being a successful entrepreneur and being a successful business leader.  My sense is customer-centricity falls under the umbrella of business leadership than entrepreneurship.  I could be very wrong on this so please speak up in the comments if you have some passion around this one.

Optimism

Leadership is integral factor for Entrepreneurship, not mutually exclusive. Hallucinogenically optimistic might be another quality

Leadership – agreed as above.  Optimism is another great quality, and was part of the reason I added Faith to my original list.  Faith and Optimism are two different qualities, but for the purposes here, I prefer Faith.  Again, Faith was not voted as a critical entrepreneurial quality.

The difference to me is that whereas Optimism is a personal quality or disposition to look at the world around you through a positive lens, Faith is a belief in something, even in the absence of any support or proof.  I tend to like the quality of Faith better for entrepreneurship from the standpoint that optimism can easily become a liability, whereas faith implies (to me at least), both a recognition that I could be wrong and  a search to prove I’m right.  So for me Faith is more proactive and forward-moving.

The Details

Systematic view, eye for details, stubbornness, helpfulness, logical

Are you an engineer by any chance?  I share your pain…

I like these, but I think they are just one set of means to achieve a goal.  I’ve met many an successful entrepreneur that was passionate, big picture and totally disorganized.  But somehow they make it work.  So while I’m inclined to agree with you on the importance of these traits, I think it’s more because I share many of them with you rather than a belief that they are critical entrepreneurial qualities.

Management

Ability to seek advise, Decision Making, Technology, Schedule Management, Prioritizing, Out-of-box thinking

As above, I think most of these are means to an end; management of your daily life and business I intended to be wrapped up in our quality of Independent.  But this got me thinking about that quality and how “independent” doesn’t really capture the requirement to do all those things listed in the comment.  I’ve been thinking something more like Self-Reliance is more true to the spirit.

Ability to seek advise I would file under Coachability, and out-of-the-box thinking we talked a bit about above as Innovation.

Humor

Perseverance, Humor, Self Efficacy, Enjoys change and challenges

You’ve got a point there.  If you don’t like a challenge, then you’re in for a long, unpleasant time as an entrepreneur.  I’m tempted to say this is covered by a combination of other qualities like Discipline, Hard Working, and Resilience, but then they really don’t capture that sense of change and challenge, do they.  In the end, I don’t think it’s so much about whether the entrepreneur actually enjoys the challenge, but is comfortable with it, can accept it and adapt to it.

From that perspective, I’m tempted to reach to the quality of Flexibility on our list.  Perhaps “adaptability” would be a better word?  Readers – give me your thoughts on this one.

Humor and self-efficacy are great traits, and entrepreneurs possessing these qualities are certainly much more fun to work with.  I can’t say they are more successful however.

I tempted to say Perseverance is covered by qualities such as Resilience and Commitment.  Personally, I do agree that this is a very important quality.  Entrepreneurs encounter so many roadblocks and challenges along their journey that continuing to push ahead is always a challenge in itself.

Experience

Educated, experienced, personable…

My observation has been that neither education nor experience is a requirement for being a successful entrepreneur.  Obviously both can help make the process smoother, but neither are required and both can be compensated for or supplemented with other team members.  I’m open for intense, raging debate on this one if you care, but those are my thoughts.  However, the entrepreneur also can’t be a complete, bumbling idiot, so Competence is on our list to at least partially cover what this commentator was trying to get at.

I do think personality plays a part and I feel that’s been covered with Charisma.

Connections

‘Connected – Networked’ Leader

Another great comment, but again one I think speaks to “nice to have” versus “essential”.  Bottom line in our incubator, we align success more around the quality of the concept and the drive of the founder.  Connections are great and many founders bring connections with them, there are just too many ways to supplement for this to categorize it as an essential quality.  In fact, part of my job, and one of the biggest value-adds we offer to entrepreneurs, is our connections throughout the region.

Many entrepreneurs also take the opportunity to greatly expand their connections through the constitution of a Board of Advisors early on, and then an official Board if/when they get funding.

Final Thoughts

These were all great comments and have really helped move along my thinking about critical entrepreneurial qualities.  We’ve uncovered some important qualities that weren’t on our original list, and re-thought some existing qualities.  I’ve also seen an interesting disconnect between some of the comments and qualities that would seem to match the comment that survey respondents did not vote as a critical quality.

So, while I’m not going back to the drawing board, I am going to do some work on the list of qualities.  In the meantime, I have one more small exercise I want to perform on our responses which I will post soon.  Then the last post in this mini-series, I’ll share what came out of my re-examination of the list, and where we go from here.

I’d like to thank you all again for the great comments to the survey.