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Business Management

10 Signs You’re an Entrepreneur

What makes business owners tick. And thrive.

A woman working remotely on a laptop.

E ntrepreneurs are a difficult bunch to categorize. For every self-made titan of industry, there are countless more creators operating in a spare bedroom. Tech Bros, of course, garner an outsized share of the startup conversation, but women-owned startups–particularly in tech–are a  force to be reckoned with. The entrepreneurial universe spans IoT and THC, streaming services and cleaning services, EdTech and Ed Beck, CPA.

However. Those daring individuals who launch their own business do share some common character traits. So if you’re contemplating a plunge into the entrepreneurial waters, or are already an established business owner, check out the signs below that suggest you’re an entrepreneur, compiled with input from successful business owners.

1. You Always Bet on You.

Dirk Van Slyke, a serial entrepreneur who recently sold the data analytics startup he launched in 2015, believes confidence is a defining characteristic of founders. “Entrepreneurs are driven by the belief that ‘I can do better than what’s out there.’” says Van Slyke. “And you have to really own that or no one will buy what you’re selling.”

2. You Want to be the Boss…of Your Destiny.

“I want whether I succeed or fail to be based solely on my own initiative,” says Kerry Tate, co-founder of Moore-Tate, an Austin, Texas-based, women-owned boutique homebuilder. Her need to author her own destiny drove Tate to found a construction business after selling TateAustin, the PR consultancy she owned for 16 years. “I wanted my second story as an entrepreneur to be creating something tangible.”

3. Pressure is your Frenemy.

Raul Garza founded TKO Advertising in 2004 after holding leadership roles at some of the largest and most prestigious ad agencies in the U.S. He believes pressure is an entrepreneur’s constant companion–and embracing it is key. “Pressure is a privilege,” he says. “Whether your business is Fortune 500 or just scraping by, the pressure on the decision maker never goes away. You have to want that.”

A man writing something in his notebook at a cafe.

4. Your Grit Don’t Quit.

Grit, resilience, intestinal fortitude…founders of every stripe agree on the need for staying power, not just for launching a business, but for maintaining one. “You have to show up and gut it out–for years and years, not weeks and months,” says Van Slyke.

5. You Know When to Fold ‘Em.

Despite their unquenchable passion for victory, most entrepreneurs seem blessed with an internal system alerting them that it’s time to pivot and cut their losses. After all, going another direction beats going bankrupt. Tate describes this skill succinctly: “Always know where the exit ramps are,” she says. “See the track ahead and be sure you can salvage something. It’s wisdom over ego.”

6. That Passion of Yours, Damn!

Passion’s importance to entrepreneurism cannot be overstated. Garza’s take is simple: “There’s that one thing that lights you up. Something you’re willing to get punched in the face for and keep coming back. That’s what it takes.” And in a mic drop moment, he adds: “Money never beats soul.”

7. Patience is Not Your Virtue.

“I’m not gonna wait around for someone else to do it.” Van Slyke cites this as the official mantra of the entrepreneur. Virtually anyone hellbent on starting their own business is an impatient soul–constantly glancing at clocks, cursing at lead times, fretting over receivables. For of all the variables that reside outside an entrepreneur’s control, time is the most unyielding.

Entrepreneurs are driven by the belief that ‘I can do better than what’s out there.’

8. It’s Not All About the Benjamins.

Let’s be real: No one ever launched a startup hoping to make less money than before. Damn near everybody wants to get rich, founders included. But is wealth what fuels the entrepreneurial spirit? “If you’re starting a business based solely on money, you’re in for a big disappointment,” cautions Garza. “You have to define your own bottom line: Are you doing this for the independence? For your passion? For the people you want to serve? Doing it just for money doesn’t carry the same weight.”

9. Kind is Your Default Setting.

People who launch their own business tend to possess a keen eye for karma. After all, their entrepreneurial hopes depend on countless contributions from others. “You don’t screw people,” Tate advises. And for good reason. After all, voluminous research indicates that acting like an asshole ain’t good for business.

10. You’re Not Above Dirty Work

Strike it up to humility or just a simple staffing issue, but you can typically count on a new business owner to tackle the grubbiest tasks at work when necessary. They’re putting it all on the line and not too proud to water the plants. “A lot of running a business is NOT fun,” sighs Tate. “You’re not going to love every day. But the 70%-80% that are good, are really great.”

The above list is by no means comprehensive, but reflects extensive primary research among a diverse cohort of business owners. And if the foregoing signs of entrepreneurism apply to you, well, congratulations. The world awaits.

Key Takeaways

  • Though entrepreneurs are an incredibly diverse community, they do share several common character traits.
  • The importance of self-confidence to starting a business.
  • Why autonomy is a central need for entrepreneurs.
  • Why business owners should embrace the pressure.
  • The necessity of resilience in founding a business.
  • The ability to pivot is vital to entrepreneurial success.
  • Passion’s role in entrepreneurship.
  • The trademark impatience of business owners.
  • Why getting rich shouldn't be a central motivation for starting a business.
  • How kindness and compassion are trademarks of entrepreneurs.
  • The willingness of entrepreneurs to tackle the dirty work.

Todd Alley is an independent writer based in Austin, TX. Todd honed his skills in the ad agency world as a copywriter and creative director, and dedicates himself nowadays to telling uncommon stories in unexpected places. He can most always be found running, cursing the Texas heat (the two go hand in hand), and catching a live blues set around town. Read more


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