As an entrepreneur who's attending college, I am often approached by classmates who are seeking to start their own business. Some have great concepts, yet when I ask them what they’ve done to advance their ideas, the answer is usually nothing.
Anyone can start a business, regardless of his or her age. After growing my own companies and mingling with successful entrepreneurs, I’ve come to realize that most entrepreneurs share these are five common characteristics:
1. Passion. A startup founder is often driven by the quest for deeper purpose beyond the sheer mechanics of operating a business. My mission for my startup, Yes Man Watches, is to empower people to consider the most valuable asset in their lives: time. I rise early every morning because I don’t want to waste my day. If you have passion for your startup, this will drive you to turn your idea into a reality. Without that missing spark, you'll lack the necessary motivation to put in all the early mornings and late nights to get your business off the ground.
2. Perseverance. Entrepreneurs need to be able to deal with obstacles. A business does not get built overnight, and turning your idea into a reality will take time. You'll have to become accustomed to people saying no to you. What makes entrepreneurs great is having the perseverance to grow regardless of how many times they are shut down. When creating the supply chain for my startup, we screened two dozen watch manufacturers. After approaching through about 10, I became quite frustrated at hearing that my company's patent-pending buckle couldn’t be made. Without perseverance, I would have given up.
Follow-up is key. People might present plenty of excuses for not getting back in touch with you. Yet if you show persist in trying to make things happen, you’ll probably succeed. For a Kickstarter campaign, I contacted dozens of writers at a single media outlet in the hopes of reaching one who might write about my company. Even though the conversion rate may be minuscule, it only takes one person to make a difference.
3. Resourcefulness. A vital ability for an entrepreneur is knowing how to make the most of what you have. Your assets as an entrepreneur will be limited, so use them to the fullest. Tapping into a network is key. When looking for a photographer, I reached out to the photography department at my university and the staff sent an email blast to students looking to build their portfolio. Within a week, I had professional-looking photos.
4. Open-Mindedness. As an entrepreneur, you may think you've zeroed in on a business plan, but you'll need to learn to take in the opinions of others. Then if it appears that your plan won’t work, then adjust. As Mark Cuban once said, “Follow the green, not the dream.” If your dream startup won’t make you any money, you may need to change your focus. When my friend Morgan Schwanke started OnMyBlock, he originally wanted to focus solely on a social platform for college students to find off-campus housing. He now concentrates his startup on every aspect of renting an off-campus space; it provides tenant listings to landlords and facilitates the making of rent payments.
5. Spongelike nature. Being an entrepreneur involves a learning process. If you’re not willing to learn, think about leaving the startup world. You need to be able to soak in everything and anything you can, just like a sponge. The more you learn, the better. A saying I'm fond of is “One who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.” When starting Yes Man Watches, I honestly didn’t know anything about watchmaking. I looked up everything I could and soaked in all the information. Now I know quite a bit about watches, from the types of stainless steel used to make the watch case and the variety of battery powering the watch movements.
Entrepreneurship is much more than a 9-to-5 job. I don’t breathe without thinking about progressing my business aspirations. If you have an idea you'd like to turn into a reality, go for it. You'll never know the outcome if you don't try.