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Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Here are 10 characteristics that set successful entrepreneurs apart:

1. Passion and Motivation

Although there are many traits that make an entrepreneur successful, perhaps the most important are passion and motivation.

  • Is there something you can work on over and over again without getting bored?
  • Is there something that keeps you awake at night because you haven't finished it yet?
  • Is there something you have built and want to continue to improve upon?
  • Is there something you enjoy so much you want to continue doing it for the rest of your life?

From building and implementing a prototype to pitching your idea to venture capitalists, success is a function of passion and determination. 

2. Not Afraid to Take Risks

Entrepreneurs are risk takers, ready to dive deep into a future of uncertainty. But not all risk takers are successful entrepreneurs. What differentiates a successful entrepreneur from the rest in terms of risk? Successful entrepreneurs are willing to risk their time and money on unknowns, but they also keep resources, plans and bandwidth for dealing with "unknown unknowns" in reserve. When evaluating risk, a successful entrepreneur will ask herself, "Is this risk worth the cost of my career, time and money?" And, "What will I do if this venture doesn't pay off?" 

3. Self-belief, Hard Work and Disciplined Dedication

Entrepreneurs believe in themselves and are confident and dedicated to their project. Their intense focus on and faith in their idea may be misconstrued as stubbornness, but it is this willingness to work hard and defy the odds that make them successful. 

4. Adaptable and Flexible

Being passionate and dedicated is important, but being inflexible about client or market needs will lead to failure. Remember, an entrepreneurial venture is not simply about doing what you believe is good, but also making a successful business out of it. Successful entrepreneurs welcome all suggestions for optimization or customization that may enhance their offering and satisfy client and market needs. 

5. Product and Market Knowledge

Entrepreneurs know their product inside and out. They also know the market. Most become successful because they create something that didn't already exist or they significantly improve an existing product after experiencing frustration with the way it worked. Remaining unaware of changing market needs, competitor moves and other external factors can cause even great products to fail. 

6. Strong Money Management

It takes time for any entrepreneurial venture to become profitable. Until then, capital is limited and needs to be utilized wisely. Successful entrepreneurs plan for present and future financial obligations and set aside an emergency fund. Even after securing funding or going fully operational, a successful businessperson keeps a complete handle on cashflow, as it is the most important aspect of any business. 

7. Effective Planning (Not Over-Planning) Skills

Entrepreneurship is about building a business from scratch while managing limited resources (including time, money and personal relationships), which requires planning. However, trying to plan for everything and having a ready solution in place for all possible issues may prevent you from ever taking the first step. Successful entrepreneurs have a business plan in place, but remain capable of dealing with unforeseen possibilities.

8. The Right Connections

Many people seek comfort in commiseration—friends, colleagues and neighbors are happy to complain about "the global slowdown,” poor demand, or unfair competition—but that won't improve the bottom line. Successful entrepreneurs reach out to mentors with more experience and extensive networks to seek valuable advice. If they don't have the necessary technical or marketing skills, they find someone who does and delegate these tasks so they can focus on growing the business.

9. Exit Preparedness

Not every attempt will result in success. The failure rate of entrepreneurial ventures is very high. Sometimes, the best solution is to call it quits and try something new instead of continuing to dump money into a failing business. Many famous entrepreneurs weren't successful the first time around, but they knew when to cut their losses.

10. Ability to Question Themselves – But Not Too Much

You may ask yourself, am I an entrepreneur? The very question may make you doubt the answer. Even if you don't have the flair of Steve Jobs or the hair of Elon Musk, if you have the courage to ask yourself intimidating questions—"Can I do this? Do I want to do this?"—you have the stuff to be an entrepreneur.

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Instead of worrying about fitting the image, check in with your gut. Is it on board?

(For related reading, see: Is Majoring in Entrepreneurship a Good Idea? Turn Your Passion into a Profitable Side Business Entrepreneurs Make Money: Why, How, Where and When)

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