6 traits successful entrepreneurs share

Successful entrepreneurs are persistent, adaptive and confident

Summer Suleiman | 3/12/2015, 10 a.m.
The stark reality is that being an entrepreneur is arduous and daunting. Yet for those who are willing to take ...

— As a writer at The Idea Village in New Orleans, I've interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs, ranging from new founders of fledgling companies to seasoned leaders who have launched several successful businesses.

On occasion, I walk out of an interview believing that entrepreneur will change the world. Other times, not so much.

Somewhere between "Shark Tank" and the myriad Silicon Valley success stories, the idea of entrepreneurship has become glamorous -- even sexy. But ask anyone who has worked in the trenches of the startup world, and they will quickly wave away that notion. The stark reality is that being an entrepreneur is arduous and daunting. Yet for those who are willing to take the path less traveled and commit their lives to one idea, or several ideas, it can be extremely rewarding.

So what is the stuff that successful entrepreneurs are made of? How do you define that certain je ne sais quoi that enables an entrepreneur to convince skeptics their idea is the next big thing? Moreover, what allows those entrepreneurs to take their idea and turn it into a profitable company?

They're persistent

Launching a startup is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires stamina, and you have to be fit to sustain the lifestyle. Founders inevitably come up against failure on a daily basis. While some ideas work, more often they don't. You try, fail, and try again.

Nine to five? Forget about it. Most startup teams clock 80 to 90 hours a week in the launch phase. As one tech entrepreneur recently told me, having an idea is just the first step on a long road. You have to have the intestinal fortitude to put your head down and get through the process.

They're adaptive

The startup world can be a jungle, and the most successful entrepreneurs have a keen ability to quickly adapt to their habitat. So much can change from the inception of an idea to the final product -- unforeseen problems arise; the market changes; demand changes. Successful entrepreneurs recognize that and are willing to try a different approach when something isn't working. In startup jargon, it's called pivoting. They can duck, dodge, dive to escape the metaphorical bullets of the entrepreneurial landscape while remaining laser-focused.

One local entrepreneur admitted to me without hesitation that being a pioneer is terrifying because it means you don't have a road map. As a founder, you have to become a jack of all trades. You are the manager, the IT department, the marketing department, and somewhere in between all of that, you have to get your work done.

They're risk takers

Entrepreneurs are, above all, risk takers. They are willing to part ways with a job that offers a plush salary and benefits to pursue their idea or business. Or they start with nothing -- and no guarantee.

We often hear entrepreneurs' grandiose success stories, but we don't always hear about the long, tumultuous journeys that led them there. I once asked a solo founder about the scariest part of being an entrepreneur. He told me about the time his funds were dwindling and his wife called him from the grocery store checkout line to inform him their credit card had been declined. Now that's real.