Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint, with those entrepreneurs that succeed not necessarily the fastest or the strongest, but those most able to endure the ups and downs.
This is according to Gerrie van Biljon, executive director of South African risk finance firm Business Partners, who having seen hundreds of entrepreneurs launch businesses over the years has identified eight key characteristics that make an entrepreneur resilient enough to succeed.
Possession of a strong internal sense of control
According to van Biljon, resilient entrepreneurs are disciplined individuals whose working hours, pace, workload and output are not controlled by something imposed upon them from the outside, such as an employment contract, peer pressure, a boss or the clock on the wall.
“Entrepreneurs set their own standards and targets – and set them high. Their ‘boss’ is their own psyche, which, more often than not, can be very demanding,” he said.
Ability to diversify and expand
Single-outlet, single-product and single-client businesses can be very vulnerable to setbacks, such as the loss of an important contract. So the more entrepreneurial type of business owner will constantly look for new markets, product lines and clients in orer to have more than one income stream to fall back on.
Development of strong social connections
Networks are crucial, according to van Biljon, who says resilient entrepreneurs are constantly cultivating their networks of clients, suppliers, peers, friends and family. This not only promotes their business and supports them emotionally, but also allows them to learn, source new opportunities and keep updated with changes in the market.
Attitude of a survivor, not a victim
“Setbacks are a certainty for any business, and when they do strike, a resilient entrepreneur will get up, dust himself off and move forward,” van Biljon says.
“They have little time for self-pity, and while they may be quick to apportion blame, the focus is on the action needed to get going again.”
Skill to learn from setbacks
All entrepreneurs do their best to avoid setbacks, but when they do happen resilient entrepreneurs can not only focus on what went wrong, but also on how to improve themselves or their business in order to avoid a repeat.
“The new set of circumstances following a setback is also viewed entrepreneurially as the entrepreneur seeks to explore what new business opportunities the setback presented, and if there is a chance to change direction or seek new markets and income streams,” van Biljon says.
Frugal and cash-flow conscious habits
Flashy high-flyers don’t tend to last long in the world of owner-managed businesses, van Biljon says.
“Resilient entrepreneurs tend to adopt low-key lifestyles. The frugality of resilient entrepreneurs is linked to their tendency to keep the cash flow through their business top of mind,” he says.
“They save and cut costs where they can, but they do so sensibly without choking the growth of their business. They are also constantly aware of who owes the business money, when they can expect income, how much money the business owes and to what extent the business is meeting its sales targets.”
Ability to look at the bigger picture
It is all too easy for an entrepreneur to get lost and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information, systems, tasks and crises requiring their attention. But a resilient entrepreneur has the ability to see the bigger picture amid all this chaos.
“They have a clear picture of where the business will be in a year’s time, or even three, five or ten years’ time. This outlook thinking enables them to prioritise business objectives and remain emotionally resilient against temporary setbacks,” van Biljon says.
Attention to detail
Yet resilient entrepreneurs also have the ability to focus on the minutiae of the day-to-day running of the business, even while keeping a constant eye on the long-term goal.
“They check and recheck prices, costing, supplier arrangements, contracts, insurance premiums, staff performance, production systems and all of the innumerable things that could stand in the way of reaching the finish line,” van Biljon says.