Most simply defined, an entrepreneur is a person who identifies a need and starts a business to fill that void. But this basic definition provides little insight into the specific character traits and attributes that make a person thrive as an entrepreneur.
Before quitting your day job to pursue that idea that's been brewing in the back of your mind, consider if you have the necessary constitution to make it as an entrepreneur. Here's what 20 company founders and business leaders told Business News Daily about what they think makes a truly successful entrepreneur.
1. "Entrepreneurship is at the core of the American dream. It's about blazing new trails, about believing in yourself, your mission and inspiring others to join you in the journey. What sets [entrepreneurs] apart is the will, courage and sometimes recklessness to actually do it." – Derek Hutson, CEO of Datical
2. "Entrepreneurship is the persistent progression towards an innovative solution to a key problem. It's the constant hunger for making things better and the idea that you are never satisfied with how things are." – Debbie Roxarzade, founder and CEO of Rachel's Kitchen
3. "At its core, [entrepreneurship] is a mindset – a way of thinking and acting. It is about imagining new ways to solve problems and create value. Fundamentally, entrepreneurship is about ... the ability to recognize [and] methodically analyze [an] opportunity, and ultimately, to capture [its] value." – Bruce Bachenheimer, clinical professor of management and executive director of the Entrepreneurship Lab at Pace University
4. "It is important to balance strong vision with a willingness to embrace change. The ability to listen, whether it be to the opinions of customers or employees, is also integral to success. While ... you must have the confidence to make your own choices, it is still incredibly important not to become detached from the people whose needs you are trying to meet. – Tirath Kamdar, founder and CEO of TrueFacet
5. "Being an entrepreneur is like heading out into uncharted territory. It's rarely obvious what to do next, and you have to rely on yourself a lot when you run into problems. There are many days when you feel like things will never work out and you're operating at a loss for endless months. You have to be able to stomach the roller coaster of emotions that comes with striking out on your own." – Amanda Austin, founder and president of Little Shop of Miniatures
6. "To be a successful entrepreneur you must have a passion for learning – from customers, employees and even competitors." – James Bedal, CEO of Bare Metal Standard
7. "To me, entrepreneurship means being able to take action and having the courage to commit and persevere through all of the challenges and failures. It is a struggle that an entrepreneur is willing to battle. It is using past experiences and intelligence to make smart decisions. Entrepreneurs are able to transform their vision into a business. I believe this process is at the core of any true entrepreneur." – MJ Pedone, founder and CEO of Indra Public Relations
8. "Being a successful entrepreneur requires a great deal of resourcefulness, because as an entrepreneur, you often run into dead ends throughout the course of your career. You need to be able to bounce back from losses if you want to be successful. There will be much more disappointment than progress when you first start off, and you need to have a short memory in order to put the past behind you quickly. It's imperative to stay optimistic when bad things happen." – Vip Sandhir, founder and CEO of HighGround
9. "Entrepreneurship is the ability to recognize the bigger picture, find where there's an opportunity to make someone's life better, design hypotheses around these opportunities, and continually test your assumptions. It's experimentation: Some experiments will work; many others will fail. It is not big exits, huge net worth or living a life of glamour. It's hard work and persistence to leave the world a better place once your time here is done." – Konrad Billetz, co-founder and co-CEO of Offset Solar
10. "[Entrepreneurs] have to be people-oriented. Your business will die without a good team to back you up. Study management techniques, learn from great leaders, review where you're succeeding and failing so you can help others improve. An entrepreneur has to be able to build a team that cares about their work, and to do that you have to care about how you create your team." – Jonathan Barnett, founder and CEO of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning
11. "To be a successful entrepreneur you need perseverance. Most successful business people or entrepreneurs have never given up on their idea. When challenges arise, they have found innovative ways of overcoming them. You must be able to adapt to changing economic conditions, and innovate and embrace technological advances to keep your customers engaged. These things take determination and a strong focus on the end goal." – Stacey Kehoe, founder of Brandlective Communications
12. "Entrepreneurship is the mindset that allows you to see opportunity everywhere. It could be a business idea, but it could also be seeing the possibilities in the people that can help you grow that business. This ability to see many options in every situation is critically important; there will be unending challenges that will test your hustle." – Preeti Sriratana, co-founder and COO of Sweeten
13. "Successful entrepreneurs ... have the guts to take a calculated risk and the tenacity and persistence to keep going even when there are bumps in the road." – Eileen Huntington, co-founder and CEO of Huntington Learning Center
14. "Successful entrepreneurs look past [the] 'quick buck' and instead look at the bigger picture to ensure that each action made is going toward the overall goal of the business or concept, whether or not that means getting something in return at that moment." – Allen Dikker, founder and CEO of Potatopia
15. "Being an entrepreneur is ingrained in one's identity. [It] is the culmination of a certain set of characteristics: determination, creativity, the capacity to risk, leadership and enthusiasm." – Eric Lupton, president of Life Saver Pool Fence Systems
16. "Entrepreneurship is an unavoidable life calling pursued by those who are fortunate enough to take chances. [They are] optimistic enough to believe in themselves, aware enough to see problems around them, stubborn enough to keep going, and bold enough to act again and again. Entrepreneurship is not something you do because you have an idea. It's about having the creativity to question, the strength to believe and the courage to move." – Jordan Fliegel, co-CEO of DRAFT
17. "An entrepreneur must be able to accept failure. Everyone thinks they can accept failure until they come face to face with failing at a major thing that they have put their everything into. To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be someone who is able to risk failure at the deepest personal levels." – Steven Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps
18. "The journey of entrepreneurship is a lifestyle for many of us; we are wired this way and have no choice. We are driven by an innate need to create, build and grow. You must have an underlying positivity that enables you to see beyond the day-to-day challenges and roadblocks, always moving forward. You must also be a master plate juggler, able to switch between thinking, genres and activities moment to moment." – Justine Smith, founder and CEO of Kids Go Co.
19. "Entrepreneurship is seeing an opportunity and gathering the resources to turn a possibility into a reality. It represents the freedom to envision something new and to make it happen. It includes risk, but it also includes the reward of creating a legacy." – Maia Haag, co-founder and president of I See Me! Personalized Books and Gifts
20. "One must possess grit. The stakes tend to be high, the bumps in the road frequent. Remaining focused, regardless of the obstacles, is paramount. That said, being an entrepreneur means being in full control of your destiny. If that's important to you, then all of the challenges associated with striking out on one's own are but a small price to pay." – Mike Malone, founder of Livestock Framing
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.