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Senior Correspondent

Every successful entrepreneur has her radar going at all times. She’s scanning for …

A disruptive external event. A crippling new government regulation. A critical supplier gone.

Anything that can derail her entrepreneurial venture.

Stuff happens.

Why Be an Entrepreneur

Many of us see becoming a business owner as the solution to challenges we may be facing as a result of job loss or other life changes that leave us looking for income. Divorce. Loss of a spouse. Need for a second income.

Whatever the reason, the internet has lowered the barriers to entry into business. The high start-up costs of yesteryear have been reduced dramatically. You no longer have to rent an office or storefront, or invest in furniture or print all sorts of marketing materials.

All you need is a viable idea, a computer and a bunch of applicable skills. Maybe even a mentor to shortcut the journey. And maybe a “virtual franchise” if you’re looking at direct marketing someone else’s product line.

What It Takes to Be a Successful Entrepreneur

But before you even get that far, and invest that much time and energy, the most critical checklist is one that ascertains that you have the personality traits that make for a successful entrepreneur.

According to a Forbes article (7 Traits of Incredibly Successful Entrepreneurs by Eric T. Wagner), those traits include:

  • Curiosity about everything: You should want to know how and why everything works, and be asking questions constantly.
  • Endless creativity: If you do what others do, as they do it, you will fail; seeing things a new way is what leads to success.
  • That “vision” thing: Without clarity about where you’re headed and why you want to go there, it’s too easy to falter along the way.
  • Great communications skills: You can’t be the pied piper if you can’t communicate your vision in writing and in spoken words.
  • Natural leadership: You need to know your strengths and be ready to delegate tasks around your weaknesses as soon as you can afford to. And you need to be head cheerleader.
  • Risk seeker and action taker: The risk-reward concept should be second nature to you as you jump into action long before most others do.
  • Unbridled tenacity: You need the sheer will to do what it takes … regardless … even when others will have given up and gone home.

One More Trait

Over my decades of entrepreneurial ventures, I’ve found another trait that has saved my hide more than once, especially in the early stages of a business:  the ability to focus on more than one thing at a time. Today some might call it ADD (they call everything ADD). I call it “building a quilt.”

As I build one business, I always have a series of other projects going in the background. They may be minor, taking little time and focus away from the main activity. But in times of difficulty, the secondary projects have always been easy to ramp up to bridge slow times or to avert disasters.

If you know my story, you know I lost my business in 2001 when my major clients went bankrupt following 9/11. It was an event I could never have predicted.

What you may not know is that my primary focus was to replace the lost activity by taking my consulting skills and searching for a new use for them. (Today that represents my major business: doing international consulting in a technical field that is the expertise of my partner.)

But as I did that, I also reactivated my translation contacts and put my four languages to use. And I took my extensive knowledge of import/export and ramped up a little service overnight that helps people source and import products from other countries.

I built a quilt. A patchwork of activities.

If you’re to be a successful entrepreneur, what do you have in your back pocket that you can call on when the proverbial “stuff happens?” 

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