The One Trait All Successful Entrepreneurs Have

This quality is what separates true entrepreneurial types from the pack.

learn more about Jeremy Johnson

By Jeremy Johnson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What is needed to successfully start a new business? Most people think it's all about the initial idea or the founding team. And while those don't hurt, few great companies grew simply because of those elements.

There is one attribute, however, that is present in all successful new ventures and the entrepreneurs who launch them: Persistence.

How could it be that one trait has such an outsized impact on success? Let's think about it.

It breaks down doors.

Back in 2013, I received an email from a young entrepreneur from Nigeria who was creating a business similar to the education technology company I was busy launching, 2U. He was looking to ask me about the business to gain insight and advice for his own venture.

I ignored the email.

He sent another one. When I declined because I was too busy, he emailed again. He kept up his requests, asking four separate times if we could meet. Finally, I gave in.

Ten minutes into our conversation, I knew I wanted to invest in him. The fact that he was undeterred by my attempts to brush him off impressed me. I became a mentor to him and we swapped notes for more than a year about scaling our ed-tech businesses. Later, we co-founded Andela together.

If he had taken "no" for an answer, his career would be in a very different place. From finding a mentor to finding investors, people will always want to tell emerging entrepreneurs "no." Without persistence, getting a "yes" is impossible.

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It demonstrates innovation.

Investors are not looking to invest primarily in a big idea or strategy as much as in the character of the entrepreneur.

Starting a business is a venture into uncertainty. Predicting obstacles the startup will face and what the winning idea or strategy will be from the start is impossible. An investor needs to know whether or not the founding team has the tenacity to stick to its vision through all the ups and downs, and if they will learn from them.

Persistence can lead to innovation and new, successful ideas. If entrepreneurs are too stubborn to give up, they will be forced to learn from their mistakes, adapt and advance in order to succeed.

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It fuels hard work.

Starting a business may seem impossible at first. But those who win are not just those with the most power or money, but rather those who are willing to work the hardest and care the most. When faced with likely failure, the only ones left are those who care too much to give up.

This conviction was instilled in me by my father, Marty Johnson, who began his nonprofit Isles, Inc. in 1981 with a staff of three and a $10,000 budget. Venture capitalists weren't interested in pouring money into community development and youth empowerment. But with continued hard word, the organization succeeded.

Today, the nonprofit continues to help build self-reliant families and communities in New Jersey.

Success is the result of continued hard work in the face of what may seem to be incredible obstacles.

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It harnesses natural abilities.

Grit, tenacity and resilience are increasingly becoming part of our criteria for talent, and are often valued more than traditional predictors of success like academic performance.

A report published in February 2013 by the U.S. Department of Education named these three qualities as the most critical factors for success in 21st century. Further, a study published in 2007 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that grit, defined as perseverance and passion, predicted success better than IQ among undergraduates enrolled in Ivy League schools or in a military academy.

Talent and intelligence are not enough. Persistence is needed to focus and develop talents, and continually apply them to reach goals.

How has persistence helped you along your business journey? Let us know in the comments below.

Related: Decisions, Decisions: What Separates Leaders From the Rest

Jeremy Johnson

Founder and CEO, Andela; Co-Founder, 2U

Jeremy Johnson is the founder and CEO of Andela, a global talent accelerator that produces developers and connects them with top employers. He is also the co-founder and former chief strategy officer of 2U, which partners with leading colleges and universities to deliver online degree programs so students everywhere can reach their full potential.

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