What defines a great business owner

—Julia Morgan.png

Although I have not yet created a million dollar business, I have helped others raise funds for theirs.

What I learned especially in the last six years are the key characteristics that make successful business owners stand out from the not so successful.

The great ones show these six essential characteristics:


This is being persistent and committed to your vision and to your task. Things will not always go to plan. And often, things will go wrong more than they will go right.

Starting a company can mean that you will fall down 100 times before you can get up that one time and win.

A perfect example of this is that of Steve Jobs. When Steve Jobs first founded Apple with his friends, he was seeking investment. The stories being told are that Steve had to make 1000 phone calls before he found one investor that wanted to invest in his company.

That is one of the great examples of persistence. It is getting through the no's to get to that one yes. So as a great entrepreneur, looking at other great entrepreneurs, make sure that you are persistent and committed to your task, don’t take no for an answer. Remember, persistence breaks resistance.



Successful self starters are passionate about what it is that they do. They're excited about the problems or pains that they solve and they're passionate about the solutions that they bring to market.

The often unsuccessful early stage entrepreneurs have just money in mind. With only money on your mind, when times get tough, you often lose sight of what it is that you're doing. Stay passionate! The more passion you have, the more persistent you will be when times get tough.


Tolerance for ambiguity

As a self starter you're often faced with high levels of uncertainty. Especially in the early stages, your idea comes with huge risk and is extremely uncertain.

In the past I had days where I wasn’t sure whether I could actually pay my bills the following month.

This level of uncertainty and risk makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Great entrepreneurs understand the environment and have a tolerance for this ambiguity (level of uncertainty). Being comfortable with this uncertainty will help you keep your mind clear, stay focused and stay sharp.


One of the defining traits or key characteristics of entrepreneurs is that of vision. Vision enables you to find opportunities in markets where other people cannot see opportunities. It's that foresight, that vision that successful people have that others don't.

New Zealand entrepreneur, Peter Beck from Rocket Lab is a great example of an entrepreneur with vision. Although his company has only recently started to surface in the media, Peter and his team have been working for many years on solving commercial flight into space.

That area was previously only accessible to governments and high-end companies, making it super expensive for smaller or medium-sized companies to commercialise space.

Keep that end goal in sight and work towards it. Whatever comes in between that doesn’t align with your vision is a distraction.


Self-belief is another key trait of successful  business owners. You have to be sure about your product, the problem that you're solving and have to be so self-sure because often, people will put down your product and try to put you down.

Self-belief is also essential in other areas. Often, entrepreneurs will face themselves as their worst enemies. You will start having doubts about your product, start having doubts about yourself and whether you're actually the right person to take it forward.

This is known as personal resistance. You can overcome resistance by being more organised, more structured and putting the right team and resources around you.

Associate yourself with the right people, the right team, the right resources. Have access to advisors, mentors and experts that will get you through discomfort and disbelief in yourself. A quick win is to hang out with positive people who inspire you rather than the ones who cut down all your thoughts.


The environment is continuously changing, rapidly changing. As much as we aim to plan, we cannot build solutions fast enough to keep up with the demands of the changing business environment.

It's essential for entrepreneurs to be firm in their vision and be flexible on their solution and how they solve problems. So, for yourself, be flexible as an entrepreneur, be flexible in how you work, be agile with your solution.

Some question to help you finding out more about yourself

I have created five questions that I always ask people when I first start working with them to help them think about the skills they need to excel.

  • Have you got access to the right resources, time and money?

  • Can you build and lead a team to make this idea forward?

  • Do you have the commitment, passion and perseverance that will last throughout tough times?

  • Are you prepared to listen, take advice and learn?

  • Lastly, do you have the right established networks to help this idea move forward?

It’s good practice to answer the above questions honestly before you start in your new venture.


The six key characteristics (tenacity, passion, tolerance for ambiguity, vision, self-belief and flexibility) are what makes entrepreneurs successful. Ask yourself which of these characteristics you already have and in which you could improve. Be honest with yourself and be ready to improve!