All Successful Entrepreneurs Share These 4 Qualities

EY and Harvard Business Review explored the state of entrepreneurship over the past three decades.

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By Nina Zipkin

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What are the qualities of an effective entrepreneur?

In a recent study, professional services firm EY and the Harvard Business Review teamed up to look back at 30 years of entrepreneurship and 9,200 winners of EY's Entrepreneur of the Year program to identify the common characteristics that successful business owners share.

Five-hundred winners were surveyed for the report, and some of the notable recent winners include Spanx founder Sara Blakely, AOL co-founder Steve Case, designer Rebecca Minkoff and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

Altogether, the report found that in 2015, the winners over the past three decades created more than 14 million jobs and contributed roughly $1 trillion of revenue to the U.S. economy. Forty-six percent of the winners were the founders of more than one business.

Read on for some of the central traits that these founders had in common.

1. They recognize talent.
When growing a business, successful entrepreneurs will look to bring on employees that are highly skilled and put forward unique perspectives, but share goals with their colleagues. The study recommends encouraging employees to constantly innovate and take risks.

2. They are focused on growth.
The study identified several aspects of your company you need to be aware of as it grows, including the makeup of your customer base, company operations and financial health. A successful entrepreneur sets immediate and long-term goals for all of the relevant categories and enlists experts within his or her company to oversee them.

3. They do their research.
Many startups founders turn to venture capital, but when pitching investors, it is important to seek out the people who are actively looking to fund businesses in your specific sphere. Savvy entrepreneurs make sure to educate themselves about the industries that investors are excited about right now, not just their own.

4. They're purpose driven.
The report found that founders who lead with a strong purpose in mind are the ones that thrive both financially and socially. The researchers recommend asking your employees to think about the company's broader purpose and how it can be achieved through daily, monthly and yearly goals.

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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