What Successful Entrepreneurs Have in Common

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What makes a world class entrepreneur?

It's a fascinating question. Is it just about having a great idea? A strong work ethic? An ability to see opportunity where others cannot?

Are they born or made? Is entrepreneurship a skill that can be acquired? Or is it an innate talent?

The truth is not so cut-and-dried. We all have our own motivations. We have varying degrees of resources. We have different distributions of skill and talent.

Yet there are common traits shared by the most successful entrepreneurs among us. By studying these shared characteristics, we can incorporate them into our own approach.

That's good news -- very few of us are born business savants. It's important to pick up anything we can from other who have earned success.

So let's dive in.

The value of having a vision

Benjamin Siegelbaum wasn't an industrious worker. He didn't attend business school. In fact, he dropped out of school as a teenager to become a thief.

Not exactly CEO material, right?

Yet Benny Siegel had one thing in spades -- vision. Well, vision and lots of firepower.

After rising to the top of American organized crime, Siegel had it all: vast wealth, movie star friends, palatial estates.

There was one thing that eluded him, however. He was desperate to become a legitimate businessman. In 1945, he decided to build a hotel and entertainment empire in the middle of the empty Las Vegas desert.

People said he was crazy. Casinos in the desert? Ridiculous. Yet Siegel was convinced it would work. His resort, The Flamingo, soon became famous. Las Vegas would eventually become the world's gaming capital.

Siegel, who was gunned down in 1947, wasn't around to see his vision proved true in all its glitzy glory. Yet his ability to imagine what others could not is testament to the incredible value of being a visionary.

Being able to divine opportunity where others see failure is a rare skill. It provides you with an extraordinary competitive edge.

Steve Jobs wasn't the first CEO to market a tablet computer. In fact, tablets had already been tried and failed. Yet Jobs had a vision about a new kind of tablet.

The iPad came out, and the rest was history.

That's vision.

The benefits of an early start

Successful entrepreneurs are rarely shrinking violets. Many of them are full-on Type A personalities.

They are also, unsurprisingly, usually morning people. Studies have shown that early risers do better in business.

Christoph Randler, a German biologist and academic, collected data showing that early risers do better in school. They get into more selective colleges. They get more career opportunities. They make more money.

Randler, who shared his findings with the Journal of Applied Social Psychology and the Harvard Business Review, argues that "early birds" are more active. They are more motivated than late-rising peers.

CEOs are famous for rising early and working long hours. Start-up employees, too, often work monstrous schedules. All of it is in service to greater corporate success.

You don't have to work 18-hour days. Yet if you aren't rising as early as you should, this is an area to improve upon. Common sense says it's true. The science backs it up.

Absolute will and devotion

Great entrepreneurs are almost superhumanly invested in their cause. They are willing to extend themselves all the way to the limit to realize their dreams.

Henry Ford worked as an engineer for Edison Illuminating Company to get the seed money for his business. Thomas Edison sold newspapers and vegetables before he sold light bulbs.

No real entrepreneur thinks he's "too good" to make any sacrifice for his venture. 

Ray Kroc was a salesman of relatively modest means. Already in his 50s and in fading health, it looked like that was all he'd ever be. Yet Kroc was possessed by an idea. He thought that food served quickly and cheaply would revolutionize American eating habits.

He started with a single restaurant in California, buying out a pair of brothers by the name of "McDonald." That decision marked the birth of a classic American company -- along with the dawn of an entire industry.

Not bad for aging salesman with little more than a dream and persistence.

Shaking up the established order

In tech circles, "disruption" is the buzzword of the moment. Every starry eyed new founder wants to change the way an industry operates. This idea for change generally involves an app of dubious utility.

Yet there's undeniable value in disturbing the status quo. Great entrepreneurs do this all the time. If you're satisfied with how things are, why introduce a new product or service?

You should always strive to challenge the norm. Do it faster. Better. Cheaper. Or rethink the entire process from the ground up.

"It has always been done this way" isn't just a weak justification. It's also the sign of great opportunity. 

The next step

If you're a budding entrepreneur or wealth builder, it's critical to seize any opportunity for self-enrichment. By studying the work and traits of those who have come before, we can optimize our chance of repeating that success.

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