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5 Lesser-Known Qualities Of A Successful Entrepreneur

by on 06/02/13 at 1:36 pm
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Small and medium business enterprises have an important place in the South African economy. Currently, 68 percent of all South African workers are working for a small business that employs fewer than 50 people. The current financial climate for small businesses is harsh. According to Absa’s head of enterprise business, Oscar Siziba, rising fuel and electricity costs, wage demands, low economic growth and uncertainty in the global economic environment have made for a turbulent small business environment.

Qualities of an entrepreneurIt’s not all doom and gloom though. Worldwide Worx conducted a survey in 2012, which found that three quarters of active, registered small and medium enterprises regard themselves as profitable, although only 65 percent believe they are competitive. This survey reveals that there is a lot of promise for entrepreneurs to become profitable and competitive. Organisation, planning and preparation are fundamental to attaining success in this cutthroat market.

There are some common qualities that successful entrepreneurs share, many of which only become apparent to onlookers after their venture has been dubbed a success. Obvious qualities such as discipline, vision, passion and determination are all common, but even these traits do not necessarily make you a successful entrepreneur.

What are some of the unique, lesser-known traits that successful entrepreneurs showcase? The following five qualities are noteworthy:


The founders of Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google and Wal-Mart, all being between the ages of 20 and 27 when they started their business, proves that age and experience do not necessarily guarantee success.

Is it luck of the draw then? Never. Open-minded entrepreneurs do not limit their business idea. Instead, they meticulously identify a niche to exploit or a service that is needed. They dream big and don’t allow naysayers to crush their ideas. With confidence and planning, entrepreneurs approach their idea with an open mind, believing that it has the ability to succeed.


Many believe that being a risk taker is a quality of a successful entrepreneur. This is somewhat of a mistruth, as successful entrepreneurs are anything but risk takers. Of course there are many risks when starting a business, however, thorough planning and foresight can alleviate many of these risks.

Examples such as Ted Turner and John Paulson demonstrate that being an entrepreneur in the modern climate involves being alert and aware of business opportunities that may arise. Both Turner and Paulson were perceptive in identifying a business gap as it emerged and decided to act on it.

A perceptive entrepreneur knows how to guide a small business in the current economic climate by keeping an ear to the ground and an eye on political and economic developments. Ultimately, knowledge is the best policy to limit risk and thereby increase the chance of success.


The predatory instinct in entrepreneurs is what is often mistaken for risk-taking. Successful entrepreneurs are more concerned with minimising failures as opposed to chasing great potential earnings.

An entrepreneur could be compared to a lion hunting a buck, waiting for its moment to strike. Similarly, an entrepreneur must identify when a commodity is trading for less than its worth. Once it has been identified, an attack must be planned for minimal failure, or in other words, higher chance of success. And then, like the lion, the entrepreneur should strike when the moment arises.


Entrepreneurs constantly need to reflect in order to learn from their mistakes and successes. This also helps the business move forward as you can plot the business growth or development and see in which direction the business is heading.

In the beginning, an entrepreneur may have a lot of passion and determination, but perhaps a few years down the line their passions change. Constant reflection will ensure that the business is aligned with the passions and determination of the entrepreneur.


Finally, the core drive of a successful entrepreneur will come from an ability to self motivate. If the business starts slowly, or personal tragedy strikes, an entrepreneur needs to be able to be self-motivated to achieve their goals in spite of the odds.

Self-motivation can be fueled by market research as this will allay fears and doubts. To be a predator, an entrepreneur needs to have the confidence to strike when the moment arises.

An open minded, perceptive, predatory, reflective and self-motivated entrepreneur will be in excellent stead to create a successful small business.

Robert Volker is an Academic Officer at online education company, GetSmarter, which presents a portfolio of over 30 online university-approved short courses to working professionals throughout South Africa. Robert assists with content development for a number of the courses. Find out more at or follow @getting_smarter on Twitter. View more articles by Robert Volker.

Tags: entrepreneurship

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