I’m lucky enough that my position at CFIB in general and My Startup in particular has afforded me the opportunity to interview dozens of people from all walks of business life.

The novice upstarts.

The wily veterans.

The somewhere-in-betweens.

As you can well imagine, after many years of absorbing the thoughts, hopes, dreams and motivations of small business owners and entrepreneurs, some common themes have emerged on what makes them tick.

Here is a quick primer on some of the attributes that make up the internal value system of successful entrepreneurs.

Go forth without fear

Many of us have an idea of where we want to go with our business ideas, yet few take the plunge and give legs to their idea. A bit of fear is a healthy thing—it’s what keeps you from being eaten in the marketplace of ideas. However, an entrepreneurial mind must practice a certain degree of fearlessness in order to succeed. That means overcoming the natural fear of rejection, or learning how to accept failure as part of a larger process.

The best entrepreneurs are just like you in that they experience fear. However, they’ve learned that the only way to overcome fear is to march right on through it, understanding that accepting and embracing fear is the key to growth and strength.

Perception is reality

Many of the most interesting people I’ve interviewed shared an ability to see unmet market needs at every turn. They are constantly taking mental notes about the world around them, considering novel ways to approach a problem.

I can’t emphasize just how straightforward this attribute can be: when you see a process or a situation that you think could be improved by a different approach, you may be subconsciously developing a business proposal.

It may seem like an obvious business solution exists, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother taking their perceptions more seriously. The next million dollar start-up is often germinating based on a walk around your own neighbourhood.

Network for all the right reasons

We’ve heard the advice since we were kids: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This may sound cynical, but at root, the concept is sound and business-savvy, with one caveat.

You want to surround yourself with people who can support you, teach you and guide you. If you approach networking as a strict means to an ends (E.g. to score financing, to score clients, to score contacts that represent your next group sale), you might be missing a much bigger opportunity.

I’m not saying don’t focus on money—the bottom line is a healthy benchmark. Just be sure to allow for organic growth in your relationships and never forget those that helped you. It’s not too much of a cliché to say that you’ll get what you give. A relationship that you’ve cultivated for all the right reasons may not provide you with instant gratification today, but it sure can lead to fantastic opportunities tomorrow.

Given that many aspects of the “new” economy are based around the idea of sharing, you’d be wise to embrace the concept and integrate it directly into your efforts. It hardly takes much to reach out to a potential mentor with a quick tweet or email, especially if you are open to connecting for the sake of connecting.

No risk, no reward

I wish it wasn’t such a hard truth, but there is something to be said about the tried and true approach to self-improvement.

Whether you’re in the weight room or in the boardroom, if there is no pain, there is likely no gain.

Through the ups and downs, always keep a little voice in the back of your head that will keep you moving forward, no matter the obstacle. A good sailor is not made by calm seas.

When it comes right down to it, you’re going to have to bite off a little bit of risk in order to see your entrepreneurial vision come into focus. It might only be the risk associated with pursuing a passion over your 9-5 grind, or maybe it will involve sacrificing some valuable personal time to put towards researching your market.

Virtually every entrepreneur I’ve even spoken to has shared with me at least one point along their journey when they took a risk. Not all of them ended well. Some were more calculated than others. Usually, the size of the reward was directly proportionate to the risk undertaken.

In the end, I have one overriding takeaway from all of the wonderful people who have shared their entrepreneurial experiences with me.

Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone.

And perhaps most importantly… be prepared to be very excited when you do step outside your comfort zone, because that’s part of the essential growth process behind all successful entrepreneurs.

Written By: Brett Hughes, Business Writer, CFIB

About Brett:
Brett Hughes is a business writer for CFIB, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Canada’s small business community. To learn about CFIB’s free membership program for first-time entrepreneurs, visit MyStartUp.ca. To read more My StartUp advice provided by Brett and other entrepreneurial-minded individuals, visit the My StartUp blog.

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