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Top 7 traits of successful entrepreneurs you should adopt

Modernizing your brand doesn’t require wearing a hoodie, but times are a changin’ and here’s how to keep up without sacrificing your professionalism.

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young executives

young executives

No hoodies required

When someone says successful entrepreneurial traits that could inject youth into your company, who do you think of? If you said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, you’re in the majority, and you’re probably wondering if you should start wearing hoodies, jeans and flip flops to the office or drinking Red Bull and vodka while you work late into the night.

No, if only being a success in business was that easy! There are dozens of traits that successful entrepreneurs have, but these are seven traits that are adoptable, actionable and can be used in any company or organization to inject youth, innovation or just sheer enthusiasm into the culture.

1. Passion

Everyone says entrepreneurs are passionate, you’ve probably heard this so many times you’re annoyed that it is on our list, but hear us out- passion is more than getting excited about a product, it’s more than burning the midnight oil. Passion is that drive that fuels you in the morning, it’s the belief that you can make a difference in the world with what you are doing, it is the idea that the reason behind what you do is so much more than a paycheck. Passion is found in doing work that you would do even if you won the lottery.

Actions to take: if you or your organization lacks passion, ask yourself why you do what you do? Who do you serve? Why does it matter? Even an agricultural association should be able to write down that they are more than their mission statement, that they spend every day devoted to elevating best practices and connecting even the most rural areas as they protect the rights of farmers, ranchers from Tyson to the tiny organic farm. Ask why. Then, ask why again until you get legitimately excited about going to work tomorrow.

2. Honesty

Transparency has been a hot buzz word in recent years, even used by the Obama administration as they campaigned for office. Being honest isn’t about putting your balanced check book on your blog, it is about being authentic, it is about being honest with yourself about what you are capable of and being honest with your team or your customers when you have fallen short. The secret ingredient to honesty that is always, always, always overlooked in every industry is humility. Honesty sometimes requires apologies, and it requires the ability say that you’re incapable of doing something.

Actions to take: look at your email inbox right now and select the email you’ve been dreading answering. We all have one. Instead of spinning something or putting a press release polish on a response, try some honesty. You’ve let that person’s needs fall through the crack and you apologize and here is what you are going to do to make it right to earn their trust. Or, your dreaded email may be to a client that you have to tell you simply don’t have any news for and although you know they desperately need news, nothing on their account has changed but here is what you are actively doing to help and you will devote yourself to it. Or maybe you need to respond to an email asking for your time and be honest with them that their cause is important to you but your plate is full right now and you aren’t able to devote the attention to them that they need.

3. Informed

Think of the most successful person you know. Do they read books? Do they read the newspaper? Do they read email newsletters and blogs? Or are they already done learning and they’ve quit. Of course they haven’t stopped learning, all successful people have an inherent desire to cram as much knowledge into their brains as possible and it isn’t always work related. Being well informed means you’re in touch with trends and ahead of the curve, you’re raising your competency level every day rather than resting on your laurels.

Actions to take: read at least one physical book each month about business or your industry and subscribe to a monthly print magazine that you read from cover to cover. Subscribe to as many digital magazines (like this one of course) and blogs that your time can possibly handle and read during your down time (on the subway, in dead still traffic, while on hold, etc.). Be a sponge and take in as much information as your brain can possibly handle, then push yourself to cram in more.

4. Accessible

Being accessible is tricky because you’re busy, your day is packed, and we just loaded more on to you by demanding that you read more, we get it. But, every young entrepreneur returns emails quickly and (this is tricky) is kind. The most popular brands and leaders are the ones that remember your name and treat the bagger at the grocery store the same as their investor, as if they are important – not because they’re a lead, but because they are passionate people that will talk about their company at any chance they are given. When you always push people off on to your secretary, they feel unimportant and as if they have no value – successful entrepreneurs work a lot of hours, but much of that is because they are accessible.

Actions to take: if you haven’t turned on email notifications to your phone, do so right now. It will be annoying at first, but as your typing speeds up and you get used to responding quickly, you’ll get the hang of it. If you already have alerts and ignore them, stop it. That kid bagging your groceries is only 16, but he may be a coding genius that could be your next great innovator, and that young startup emailing you asking for coffee may not get that coffee, but may get an email conversation with you that ends in his investing in your company. Inaccessibility implies you’re important than other people, and even if you believe that to be true, stop it.

5. Competitive

There is this notion that entrepreneurs, especially tech entrepreneurs are not competitive simply because they ask for feedback frequently and they are often laid back. Injecting youth into your organization doesn’t mean being cut throat, but it doesn’t mean playing hacky sack on the front lawn every day. Entrepreneurs know that at any time, someone could be 30 seconds behind them with the next big thing and that they have to have to hustle (in a good way). Remaining competitive means studying other companies and not assuming that because they’re smaller or older that they don’t have any market share you can snatch up. Competition doesn’t mean seeing red when your competitor does well, it means pushing yourself harder.

Actions to take: pick one competitor and track your company’s performance against theirs. This could be in dollars, in client acquisition, in investment, or in other results. Keep this at your desk and manually write down the key performance metric you’re charting. Writing it manually will commit it to memory and make you commit to the reality that there are competitors no matter who or where you are. Even Zuckerberg has major competitors.

6. Positive

Have you ever noticed how magnetic truly successful entrepreneurs are? They may not all dress well or be well spoken, but there is something about them that inspires others, and often it is that passion but moreso, it is an unrelenting positive attitude about their company and not a smiling-through-their-teeth kind of positivity, but an I-built-this-wonderful-company-from-the-ground-up and a this-company-is-my-baby kind of positivity. Want that youthful feeling at your company? Be a leader that inspires and motivates rather than asserts authority.

Actions to take: Tomorrow, when you go in to the office, go to the employee’s office that is the lowest on the totem pole and ask what they think of a project they are working on. See if they exude positivity about your company. If they are unenthusiastic or if there is a glimmer of boredom in their eyes, it isn’t their fault, it’s yours. A genuinely positive attitude about a company’s mission is contagious and should shine in everything a company does, no matter how menial. If your staff is bored, you need to stop what you’re doing and inspire those around you by telling them why the company exists, what’s in its DNA. This isn’t a pep talk, this is a culture injection that needs to happen asap.

7. Open

That hip, collaborative environment in Silicon Valley (where everyone has an open door and they toss ideas around openly and get pumped up about a tiny tweak to the website) is real and you can have it too. As a leader, are you open to criticism from staff, customers, press or yourself? Are you open to rejection? Some leaders struggle with this and believe they know best and one in a trillion leaders are right (ask Steve Jobs who never used focus groups rather used his young staff’s ideas mixed with his gut instinct on product marketability). Good leaders ask people they trust for input, but great leaders are open to feedback from everyone, no matter how small.

Actions to take: if this is hard for you, remember that rejection is part of business. Start small. Email a friend in your industry that doesn’t work with or for you and ask for their feedback on the latest changes to your company. It can be a website redesign, a staff change, a simple press release or a new service offering. Practice with someone you trust and build from there with the goal of not being defensive when you get an email (because you’re now accessible, right?) that says your website sucks, rather ask critics what they would do differently.

The takeaway

By being passionate, honest, informed, accessible, competitive, inspirational and open, your company will have the vibrant feel of a brand new startup and inject youth into your company. It all starts with you and what your motivation every morning is, so cram your brains full of information and find a way to tap into the reason why you got into this industry to begin with, then let it flow through everything you do.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Business Entrepreneur

How to spot when it’s time to go full freelance

(ENTREPRENEUR) There may come a point when traditional work becomes burdensome. Know how to spot when it is time to go full freelance.

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freelance productivity

Freelancing is often thought of as a mythical concept, something that is almost too good to be true. While it isn’t all about hanging out at home in your pajamas all day, being a freelance is something that is completely possible to be successful – assuming you do your homework.

Recently, a friend of mine who is a licensed esthetician was no longer happy with her position at the salon and spa she worked for. The set hours were becoming a burden, as was having to divvy up appointments between another esthetician within the salon.

She noticed an increasing number of people asking her if she could perform services (eyebrow and lip waxing) from her home, as they preferred not to go into the hectic salon. My friend also found an increase in requests for her to travel to bridal parties for their makeup, rather than the parties coming into the salon.

It was around this time that my friend began to seriously consider becoming a freelance esthetician, rather than a salon employee. After about six months of research and consideration, she decided that this was the best route for her.

Below are the reasons she felt ready to pursue this option, and if they resonate with you, you may be ready for a full time freelance career.

1. She had a number of built-in clients and a list of people she could contact to announce her at-home services. Doing this at the start of one’s career would be very difficult without a contact list and word-of-mouth references, so it’s important to have…

2. …experience! My friend had worked for a number of salons over the years, and had the experience of working with all different types of clients. She also learned what she liked and didn’t like about each salon, which were pieces that factored into her own work-from-home space.

3. Since she had years of experience and had done all of the necessary aforementioned research, she knew what was expected of her and knew that getting a freelance career off the ground wouldn’t be a walk in the park. Operating a freelance career is completely on you, so you have to be 100 percent dedicated to making it work – it won’t just happen for you.

4. Once she began thinking about this idea nonstop and became more excited, she knew it was time to move forward. At first, the “what ifs” were daunting, but became more positive as time went on. If the idea of being a freelancer elicits more smiles than frowns, definitely take the time to consider this option.

5. In addition to the clients she already had, she also had an amazing support system who helped her develop her freelance brand and get her at-home business up and running. Having a solid group of people in your life that will help you is crucial, and any offer for help should be appreciated.

Other things to consider are: do you have enough money saved in case the freelance venture takes longer than planned to take off? If not, maybe stick with the day job until you feel more financially secure.

Jumping into something too quickly can cause you to become overwhelmed and drown in the stress. Make sure you’ve covered every single base before making this leap. Good luck, freelancers!

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Business Entrepreneur

Hobby to profession: The new-age entrepreneurs

(ENTREPRENEURS) Turning your hobby into a career is harder said than done but a few knitters are putting on a clinic on how to do it.

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knitting entrepreneurs

I’ve often heard the advice that you should follow your passion, and eventually, someone will pay you to do it. But the truth is, turning your hobby into a career is easier said than done. The process by which a person turns a hobby into a business is poorly understood by experts – at least partially because it’s so difficult to collect data on this topic. In order to separate the lifelong hobbyists from the entrepreneurs, you’d have to trace the activities of many hobbyists over many years to understand how their paths diverged.

An MIT Ph.D. candidate has hit upon a novel way to research the transition from hobby to entrepreneurship by following Ravelry.com, a social media and pattern-sharing platform for knitters and crocheters, often known as the “Facebook of knitting.” The site encourages crafters to keep track of and share their projects, tools, techniques, and patterns.

The Washington Post reports that by analyzing over 400,000 profiles on Ravelry.com and interviewing 100 knitters, found through an additional newsletter and three blogs, Ph.D. candidate Hyejun Kim was able to draw some interesting conclusions about what can “cause someone to flip the switch from ‘fun’ to ‘profit.’” Only 1.5 percent of Ravelry users become entrepreneurs who sell their own patterns, knitted items, or yarns. What sets this small number of knitters apart?

Although the internet provided the crucial data Kim needed for the study, it was, in fact, real-world connections and encouragement that turned out to be the tipping point into entrepreneurship for most knitters-turned-business-owners. When asked why they decided to start their own businesses, most reported that they were encouraged by their friends and spouses.

Most of the crafters who became entrepreneurs were already very skilled knitters, to begin with. Kim was able to isolate a number of knitters who joined in-person knitting groups like Stich ‘n’ Bitch. Those who joined a group were 25 percent more likely to become entrepreneurs than those who didn’t. That’s because their crocheting comrades would compliment their creations, boosting their confidence and inspiring them to take it to the next level.

It shouldn’t be overlooked that 96 percent of Ravelry users are women. The forces of sexism in the world of startups and the undervaluation and domestication of women’s handicrafts likely combine to give women the impression that their skills and talents are just for fun and shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to make money. Kim’s research shows that when it comes to entrepreneurship, sometimes talented women just need a nudge in the right direction.

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Business Entrepreneur

Teach kids music and they’ll learn entrepreneurship

(ENTREPRENEUR) Sowing the seed of music education and appreciation in your child when they’re young is a great way to produce the fruit of entrepreneurship when they’re older.

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entrepreneurship

With all the focus sports gets as the petri dish for producing driven adults, I’d like to offer up a different extracurricular activity for your consideration: music. Supporting your child as they learn how to harmonize with others will help set them up for success later in life, as music cultivates many of the characteristics that entrepreneurs rely on every day.

Iteration

Anybody who’s played an instrument or been a part of a choir can tell you that the number one thing you’ll learn in a musical group is that you won’t make it unless you practice, practice, practice. Although in the moment it’s not that great to hear little Timmy or Ginny run through their C-scale a hundred times, a few years down the line when all those hours of iterating result in the lilt of Beethoven through your household, you can be sure that your kid has learned that repeating the little steps helps them achieve large goals.

Showmanship

A large part of being a successful entrepreneur is knowing your markets, or your audience, and able to keep their attention so that they come back to you when they need your business. Being a part of an ensemble not only teaches children to be comfortable in the spotlight but to crave putting on a show.

Teamwork

When young musicians come together to play in a band or raise their voices in a choir, they’re learning a lot about how to collaborate with others in order to achieve a goal. When a young alto sings alone, her notes may sound strange without the soprano tones filling out the melody. The duet that comes from them learning to work together and complement each other builds a strong foundation for any team venture your child will encounter later in their careers.

Competiveness

Although music provides a solid foundation in harmony, it also contains just as much grit and competition as the football field. Music groups compete in regional and national championships just as athletes do, and solos offer opportunities to self-select and advocate. Hell hath no fire like a second seat musician who dreams of being first chair.

Self Confidence

Unlike sports, music is accessible to those who might struggle with finding confidence. There are no “best” requirements to play—regardless of height, weight, and other characteristics that nobody has any control over—nearly anyone can pick up an instrument or find their voice. This perhaps may be the greatest gift that you can give your child, the confidence that no matter what they look like they can excel.

As your child begins to consider the different activities that will help them build toward their future, don’t discourage them from pursuing a musical path. When they have to stand in front of an audience of their peers and deliver a presentation with an unwavering voice, they’ll thank you for the years they spent getting comfortable in the spotlight. Especially if they pursue entrepreneurship!

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