Three Attributes for Successful Entrepreneurs

Tonight I guest spoke at BlobLive in Philly and told the start-up story of RevZilla. It was a blast, and I was flattered to have been asked to be there as an “inspirational success story” speaking first to kick off the night. It felt good. I always enjoy interacting with an audience, especially when I get to talk about anything I am passionate about. Its like a throwback to 2006, leading a pitch to c-level exec’s. Catnip for an ex Biz-Dev guy.

At the end of the event I got put on the spot and asked “What are the 3 attributes needed to be a successful entrepreneur?”. Not the easiest question on the fly, but there are many “right” answers.

I shot from the hip and answered “Optimistic, Relentless & Ambitious”. It’s a right answer, but walking out after the event I couldn’t help wondering if it was the best answer.

Mulling it further, I wish I had a do-over. I’d answer slightly differently next time.

I will stick with Optimistic. You have to be a dreamer to roll the big dice. Realists and pessimists have an easier time sticking to the norm – the big dice are scary – maxed credit cards, burnt savings and ramen noodles suck. Optimists are the ones naive enough to think they can will their master plans to fruition.

I will also stick with Relentless, although to me the word carries a bit of a negative connotation. It feels like ruthless. While sometimes good business does call for bit of ruthlessness, I hope that for every one time that being ruthless is the right move, there are 20 other times where prudence provides me a more altruistic course of action. Unyielding may make me feel a bit better as it encompasses less of an iron fist and more of a sense of diligence toward the endless funnel of tasks.

Ambitious has to go. Ambition is an afterthought affecting every decision an entrepreneur makes and it rarely a learned trait. You can be more optimistic and relentless in your pursuit and actively work on those traits. You can not be an entrepreneur without being inherently ambitious.

The replacement for ambitious is a toss up between creative and resourceful which to me are closer than one would probably expect. Both of those words relate to an entrepreneurs approach to problem solving using the tools at hand. Many times unusual circumstances in uncharted waters can be very difficult to solve with a shoe-string budget. At times like those I ask myself “What would MacGuyver do?” – He would be creative and resourceful, and usually pull it off. Be MacGuyver. He always wins. And aside from hopefully finding a solution, you usually end up with a kick-ass story to tell later as an added bonus.

To sum up, if I got a do-over, the magic three are Optimistic, Relentless & Cre-sourceful MacGuyver-style with no firearms.


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