What are the Important Characteristics of an Entrepreneur


As Professor Rossi discussed in class, there are six key attributes of an entrepreneur; commitment and determination, leadership, opportunity obsession, high tolerance of risk/ambiguity/and uncertainty, creativity/self-reliance/and adaptability, and lastly, motivation to excel. As a new, and inexperienced graduate, the three most important qualities I would look for in the leader of my business team are; leadership, commitment and determination, and creativity.

The most important quality to me is leadership. Although the definition of a leader varies from person to person, the qualities that make up a leader are similar, and every business team needs one. Without a leader, the team would have nothing. They are independent and crucial to team building. They are probably the person who came up with the idea or brought the team members together. A leader is also needed to teach which would be something I would greatly value from as a recent graduate. Also, with respect to the team as a whole, leaders are learners too and create no hierarchy within the team. This creates a very level and comfortable environment which most graduates don't get to experience in first jobs and thus they're subjected to a high stress and high pressure environment, which could inhibit them or otherwise negatively affect their performance. Furthermore, leaders are willing to share the wealth which means that their utmost goal is NOT money, but their company, and that inspiration and passion will flow into everything they do any say, including me! Continuing with the ideas expressed above, leaders lead through influence and inspiration, not power or hierarchy. They inspire their team which makes the team want to work for the good of the company, and it makes everyone excited and happy. Happy employees are productive employees, and everyone is united around a common and exciting goal.

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"The speed of the leader determines the speed of the gang" are the words of Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay cosmetics ("Expert Advice for Starting A Small Business from Scratch"). Mary Kay is a true leader and visionary. After being constantly underappreciated and underpaid, compared to men, she resigned from her job with a plan. With this plan, her entire savings, and the help of her son, she started Beauty by Mary Kay ("Mary Kay"). The company was dedicated to making life more beautiful for women and the belief of praising people for their success ("Mary Kay"). The company allows women to be in business for themselves and be as successful as they want, or don't want, to be. The basic idea is; after signing up, the "beauty consultant" receives a basic inventory and sells to friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, etc., and when products are purchased, they receive commission. Mary Kay created a company that is all about sharing the wealth. My cousin is actually a beauty consultant for Mary Kay and she loves it. Mary Kay creates a hugely inspiring community and support system for their consultants. They hold meetings and conventions a couple times a year where the consultants are invited to get excited about new products and tips on maximizing sales. It also creates a place to network and share ideas. They are a very big team which is truly unique since every consultant is their own boss. Mary Kay's company exemplifies what a leader can do through inspiration and influence.

In very close second, commitment and determination is something I would require in the leader of a business team. A leader who is committed and determined is indirectly motivating especially during down times or when the team runs into an issue. A leader who is committed to their idea is going to be passionate about it and when you are passionate about something it truly matters to you. Because passion is so inspiring, they can keep the team members going and help solve many of the problems when less determined people may want to give up. Team leaders who have this quality are persistent and disciplined, pushing the team forward like an engine. Also, as much as they are committed to their company and team, they know when to de-commit and they are disciplined to never "marry" an idea. They are however, married and passionate about being an entrepreneur and are willing to commit their time and resources to the team. It takes a lot of discipline to balance passion and level-headedness which is very important in the decision making process and something I would definitely look out for when looking for an ideal business team leader. All these characteristics not only benefit the team as a whole, but they would especially benefit me. It would shed a new light on the definition of hard work, and show me all the pay-offs of persistence. It would also teach me to be a better problem solver and to be disciplined when making decisions so as to not let feelings get in the way.

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Probably applicable to multiple examples, Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple is one of the most determined leaders I've heard of. He was forced out of his own company in 1985 and from then on sales and innovation lagged as Microsoft became an even bigger technology giant (Burkitt). When Jobs returned in 1997, he helped to revolutionize Apple in the digital music and mobile phone industries (Burkitt). Today, Apple is surpassing Microsoft as the technological giant. Historically, Apple computers were never preferred to PC's, however that is turning around today as Apple continues to revolutionize their technology and create new products. Jobs' commitment to his idea and his company pushed them through their shaky startup and fierce competition. His tenacity and persistence lead to platform technologies such as the iPod and iPhone that are seen virtually everywhere today. It is uncommon for consumers in today's world to not have some Apple product. Also, the fact that all of these innovations were simultaneous with the return of Jobs proves just how invaluable he is to the company.

Last but not least, creativity is a very important quality in a successful team leader. Creative people are innovators, and eccentric. They are always open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and innovation which demonstrates their ability to learn as well. When a person is naturally creative, they're naturally in an entrepreneurial mind-set all the time. Of course, not all successful companies were started based on a revolutionary or innovative idea, but it certainly is an advantage to be able to think of one. Similarly, to be able to revolutionize an already existing service or product takes even more creativity than the initial idea because it has to be that much better to succeed over the original. I like to think of myself as a creative person, and as a creative person, I can attest to the fact that creative people are always thinking about new projects. It's borderline obsessive, and this is very important to have in a business team leader because they will always have the company on the brain. They will constantly be thinking about an idea, how to improve the idea, where the idea could go in the future, and what is needed for the idea to succeed. It will always be a priority to them as a creative project, unlike a manager in a traditional business who only thinks about the company nine to fine, Monday through Friday. Imagine how many great ideas are over-looked when time spent thinking about a company is only half of what it could be. I also believe creativity is contagious. When one person starts talking about ideas, everyone starts down that path and everyone starts talking about ideas no matter how crazy or bad the idea. This kind of environment is crucial to innovation, crucial to an entrepreneurial start-up, and thus crucial in the start-up's leader.

Following my first thought of Disney in the creative department, I thought of Pixar. Pixar has revolutionized the animated film industry with their first production; Toy Story in 1995. According to the Pixar website, back then, Pixar was led by present day Chief CREATIVE Officer, John Lasseter. The team is responsible for writing, producing, and animating all of the films. Lasseter was later awarded a Special Achievement Academy Award for his inspired leadership role in the creation of Toy Story ("Pixar"). Lasseter and his team revolutionized the industry so much, that similar studios are emerging such as, DreamWorks Animation, whose first production was the movie, Antz.

Successful business teams certainly require more than just these characteristics, however; these are the qualities I would look for in a successful leader, and they are the most important qualities I would want in myself as a future leader.