If you asked a dozen different people what makes a successful entrepreneur, you’d likely get a dozen different answers. Is it startup capital? A clear business vision? A white paper on financial forecasting?
All of these things help, of course, along with a near-endless list of other useful insights and resources.
When all’s said and done, however, there’s a good argument to be made that the real power behind successful entrepreneurs is the entrepreneur mindset. A series of mental attitudes and approaches to the world that promote growth and success, even in times of external hardship and trial.
Here are some essential points of a successful entrepreneur’s mindset.
Always seek a point of positive tension
What is it that keeps moving you forward in life? If you answered “comfort”, “happiness”, and “contentedness”, you couldn’t have been more wrong. As essential as all of those things are to a happy and fulfilled life, they are, if anything, things which limit growth rather than promote it.
Think about it for a moment; if you’re very comfortable and content with your situation in life, what reason would you have for putting yourself out there and trying to change things? Not only would it be pointless, it would be counterproductive, and perhaps even stupid. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.
No, growth isn’t driven by comfort and contentedness, growth is driven by tension. The key in maintaining a constant growth-focused approach to your entrepreneurial venture is to keep placing yourself in positions which generate positive tension.
“Positive” tension in this case refers to a degree of tension which is enough to drive and draw you forward, but which isn’t so much that it causes anxiety attacks and destroys your sense of self confidence.
Positive tension should make you feel that you’re doing well, but that there’s a new, tempting vista just out of reach that you need to achieve.
Always be proactive
In some fields, such as deep academia, it’s likely beneficial to spend a very long time thinking and deliberating rather than acting. In business, on the other hand, having a bias for action is almost always the best way of securing opportunities and making a success of whatever endeavour you’re undertaking.
The business world is very fast paced, and among other things, this allows great opportunities for testing different approaches, learning from those tests, and adjusting behaviour in a short space of time.
The successful entrepreneur doesn’t get too hung up on the initial planning phase before taking his first action steps, instead, he identifies the essential points, acts, judges the result, takes stock, and acts again, as soon as possible. If you’ve set yourself the goal of creating a real estate SEO tutorial, for example, don’t spend all year in the planning phase. Instead, draft the bare-bones structure in one go, run it by a trusted colleague or focus group, and build from there.
This is the way that many of the most successful business of all time have achieved their remarkable success. Just consider, for example, how many failed businesses Richard Branson has had for all of his successful ones.
Is he a failure overall? Of course not, because he remained in constant motion, and used his business missteps as data points to improve things going forward.
Take complete responsibility for yourself
Fortune may be cruel, and unenviable circumstances may afflict you which were really not your fault in any reasonable way. Nonetheless, it’s still important that you begin approaching all your successes, failures, and your overall situation in life from a position of complete responsibility.
That is, you should take complete responsibility for everything that happens to you, the good and the bad.
There are various benefits to this, but the chief and most immediate of these is the simple fact that taking responsibility for a situation implies that you have the power to change that situation.
Consider if you were facing early setbacks in your business, and told yourself that “the world isn’t fair, I did everything right, everyone else has just been treating me poorly”. While the statements may or may not be true, what position does it put you in? Does it empower you to take control, work things in your favour, and come out on top?
No. It simply gives complete power over your situation and fate to external forces.
If, on the other hand, you were to take complete responsibility for the situation, you would be primed for finding solutions, not for feeling helpless. You’d ask questions like “what actions of mine contributed to this situation?” and “how can I move on from here?”
That shift in mindset can make all the difference between overall success and failure.
Become comfortable with networking
No entrepreneur is a lone wolf, acting independently in the world, as much as many might like to cultivate that imagine. The truth is that being a successful entrepreneur, like being successful in business in general, has a lot to do with effective networking.
You need to make a habit from day one of keeping contact information for people you have worked with, or met in a professional context, and who you might benefit from knowing or getting references from down the line. Consider this network to be your professional web. The more connections and overlapping threads you have, and the better your reputation with them, the greater your overall chances of success in any context.
Luckily, web-based services such as LinkedIn make the entire process that much easier and more streamlined today. Take full advantage of these tools, and begin your life as an entrepreneur with a fully filled in LinkedIn profile which you will make a point of checking regularly.
Become a master of time management
When you don’t have a boss to keep tabs on you and to make sure that you’re working between set hours, the temptation can be enormous to procrastinate and lose track of time.
If you plan to be a successful entrepreneur, you absolutely have to understand and accept the idea that time is money, and you must become a master of time management.
Whether this means simply forcing yourself to sit down in your chair and work through sheer willpower, or involves meticulously tracking your time via apps and services such as RescueTime or Toggl, don’t take it for granted.
Time is your most valuable resource and you absolutely must treat it as though it were made of solid gold.
Dress for success
Entrepreneurs and small businessmen need to work extra hard to establish a professional image and brand, and they don’t benefit from the same recognition, respect, and marketing resources that major companies enjoy.
That’s one of the reasons why dressing for success — especially when meeting clients or professional contacts — is essential. It goes beyond simply the way you dress, however. Your entire presentation has to be professional and encourage trust in your clients and contacts.
Have your website professionally done, and get professional headshots taken for your various profiles. Avoid doing anything that makes you seem cheap, tacky, or run-of-the-mill.
Another reason to dress for success is the way it affects your own psychology. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to consider yourself a real professional, worth the time of others to employ and have a working relationship with.
Treating yourself like a real professional in your day-to-day life is a key step to achieving that. And wearing good, professional clothes, is a key part of that.