4 Characteristics of Great Entrepreneurs


What makes a great entrepreneur?

Are business people born great or are great business people made?

Over the years I’ve come across quite a few entrepreneurs and, while each is certainly unique in their own way, there seems to be several characteristics that the great entrepreneurs have in common.

Here are the 4 most common characteristics that I typically see in great entrepreneurs.

Great entrepreneurs are great hustlers

If I had to use one word to define a great entrepreneur it would be the word “hustler“.

These individuals are non-stop go-getters. They’re constantly thinking one step ahead and rarely end up on the losing side of things.

One individual that comes to mind is Andrew Dumont; a friend of mine who heads business development for SEOmoz out in Seattle. I’ve watched this guy work his magic over the years and if there’s one thing Andrew knows how to do …it’s hustle.

At a relatively young age, he’s helped lead some great startup companies and has managed to make some valuable connections in the startup scene. As a result, it’s helped him do his job better and become even more valuable to a company.

stride app

Andrew’s latest project, Stride, is a great example of how hustlers and great entrepreneurs work their magic.

If you run a startup, you know first hand how frustrating and time consuming sales tracking can be. It’s obvious from the creation of this app that Andrew has recognized a need and then pulled together the needed individuals in order to create a solution that addresses those pain points.

…classic hustler mentality.

Great entrepreneurs recognize and seize opportunity

By definition, an entrepreneur is someone who takes risks. Of course, just because you take risks doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win.

When it comes to risks, great entrepreneurs have a knack for the following:

  1. Recognizing opportunity – as I mentioned with Andrew, great entrepreneurs recognize a great opportunity. They understand what makes a good business idea and what doesn’t. This starts by simply listening to people and recognizing the problems they are dealing with.
  2. Calculating risks – I have a whole boat load of billion dollar ideas. Unfortunately, most of those business ideas are too risky for me at the moment. Smart business people understand what risks are “appropriate” for them and what risks are simply too risky.
  3. Executing with precision – once entrepreneurs focus in on risk they are willing to take, the great ones then execute a business plan with incredible precision. The one who dont’ have laser-like focus ….lose.

A great entrepreneur knows how to use leverage

Just as important as the hustler mentality is that you know how to use what leverage you have in order to gain more leverage.

One person who has done this incredibly well is Neil Patel; the co-founder and VP of marketing at KISSmetrics.

If I’m not mistaken, it all started for Neil when he was named one of the top 100 influencers on the web by the Wall Street Journal. From there, Neil was able to leverage that accomplishment in order to build more leverage.

social proof

Even with just a quick snap shot of Neil’s website  you can get a clear picture of how he leverages what he’s accomplished to help him accomplish even more. Marketers call this “social proof“.

You could break this down into a few simple steps:

  1. Figure out what your target market sees as “impressive”.
  2. Find some way to make progress towards that accomplishment.
  3. Use that accomplishment to give you the opportunity to accomplish something bigger.

It’s important to note that you can leverage a lot more than social proof.

the domino project

As you build your business, you’ll start to realize that you can use that momentum to help in other areas. Consider how Seth Godin has leveraged his successes.

He essentially started with a book publishing company, moved into the online marketing space, used his knowledge and momentum to help him become famous, and has now partnered with Amazon to create The Domino Project; a platform that will, essentially, help him to sell even more books and become even more famous.

A great entrepreneur is driven …and then some

Mark Cuban

As I was getting my weekly dose of Shark Tank the other day, Mark Cuban said something that made a lot of sense to me. He told a guy that he wasn’t going to invest in him because he didn’t think that he was going to stay hungry.

There’s a big difference between someone who gets lucky and someone who continually succeeds.

People who continually succeed are driven….insanely driven.

How many times have you heard about how hard Michael Jordan worked to become the greatest basketball player of all time? …How about Tiger Woods? How driven is he?

Of course, Michael Jordan is 6’6 and Tiger Woods can drive a ball more than 300 yards. In the sports world, passion will only get you so far.

It’s similar in the business world. Except, in the business you need:

  1. To be driven (by more than just money)
  2. To have street smarts (the ability to learn very quickly and build business relationships)

As with sports, it’s not enough to be driven. You need to be driven by the right things and you need to be able to learn extremely quickly.

People are driven to pursue dumb business ideas all the time. Guess what? …they end up failing. The interesting question is, how quickly will that individual learn from those mistakes? How will they move forward and leverage what they know?

Great entrepreneurs are driven by more than just money. In fact, most of them would probably tell you that money isn’t even in their top 5 most important accomplishments.

Most of the greats are driven primarily by one thing and one thing only, they want to be the best. They want to master their trade and they’ll spend countless hours and dollars to do so.


When it comes down to it, you could have all of these characteristics and still manage to run your startup into the ground. At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time to get lucky.

However, as I mentioned before, there’s a big difference between getting lucky once and continually being successful. In my experience, individuals who are successful often have these 4 characteristics in common.

For those of you with startup or business experience, what do you think? Who are some successful business people that stick out to you and what characteristics do these business people have in common?

  • http://jbkiosk.webs.com djm

    Started from humble beginning and hes going far.

    • http://www.ThePoised.com THOM HOLLAND

      Yes you are, my friend :-)

  • http://www.callboxinc.com.au/ Maegan Anderson

    The main ingredient
    in becoming a successful entrepreneur is having a passion on what we do.When
    we are enthusiastic and proud of the work we do, the better equipped we’ll be
    to overcome the many obstacles that will surely arise in the process of
    starting a business or moving up in a career. Also, the more enthusiasm we
    have, the more inclined we are to work harder at improving ourselves. This
    will allow us to continuously get better at the work we do. The better we get
    at our work, the better we can get paid for doing it.

    • http://www.ThePoised.com/ Thom Holland

      Passion…..and a little luck never hurt 😉

  • Mike

    Great concise list Thom. I’d add that entrepreneurs are resilient. They will all encounter people that will doubt them, whether they are just starting or branching off into a new segment of their current business. They need to be able to take this criticism as well as the flack that comes with the failure you talked about. Everyone knows that entrepreneurs are risk-takers, what we don’t always talk about is their ability to bounce back once they have failed.

    • http://www.ThePoised.com/ Thom Holland

      Mike – long time, no see buddy.

      Thanks for chiming in. I certainly look forward to seeing how you move forward with your ventures.

      Keep me posted and let me know if there is ever anything I can do to help.

      • Mike

        I know right, you never know who you’re going to re-connect with!

        I’m looking forward to following what you’re doing and learning anything I can from you. I’ll keep you posted, the same goes for you in your ventures.

        Keep up the great writing!

  • Eric Woodard

    Thom, great article. If I had to add something it would be a hyper analytical personality. As an entrepreneur I’m interested, perhaps overly interested, in all kinds of operations, whether it be where the nearest light pole was made and the details therein, to god knows what else. My key to success has been to keep failures small through constant micro market testing of ideas (of which any entrepreneur has plenty), and make successes big. Rinse and repeat.

    • http://www.ThePoised.com/ Thom Holland

      Thanks for chiming in Eric.

      I can understand that. Like a lot of people, entrepreneurs tend to be curious. The difference seems to be that entrepreneurs are willing to put their ideas in motion.

      Sometimes they succeed….sometimes they fail.