by: Geoff Ficke

The 5 Absolutely Essential Personal Traits Needed to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

I am often asked by media interviewers, prospective entrepreneurs and college students I mentor to identify the most important qualities that are present in successful small business start-up owners and innovators. Obviously there are many personality traits that contribute to success in every sort of endeavor. Honesty, hard work, creativity and a positive mental attitude are only a few. However, I think that there are five traits that are essential keys to achieving entrepreneurial success. These are present in every successful entrepreneur I have ever worked with.


High achieving entrepreneurs have an unrestrained passion for their business or concept. This is not to be confused with cheerleading or hype. Their passion is born of a confidence that their project will help and provide real benefits to people, clients and customers. Of course, they hope to prosper financially from their work, but they really and truly are passionate that they can make a difference. The passion that Emeril Legasse exudes when he speaks about Food and Cooking, or that displayed by Tory Burch when she describes her Fashion Designs are obvious examples.


Successful entrepreneurs will not be stopped. They quickly come to understand that they will consistently hear the word “no”. To these driven people “no” simply means not today. They are driven to succeed and always find a way to overcome the “no” obstacles that the marketplace places in their path. Vidal Sassoon, born to poverty in East London, created one of the world’s great Beauty and Cosmetic empires through his sheer drive. Famous Amos overcame huge personal obstacles before he pioneered the creation and commercialize of the designer Cookie category.


By their very nature entrepreneurs are creative. This creativity, however, often results in lack of focus. Ideas seem to come in waves. The project at hand is undone by a bigger, grander idea, then another. Successful entrepreneurs are solely and totally focused on their Business Plan, executing their strategy and getting to market with a first mover advantage in hand.

Bernie Marcus, Ken Langone and Arthur Blank launched the Home Depot with a single store in Atlanta. They overcame numerous hurdles to perfect the DIY concept that is ubiquitous today by staying focused on the perfection of their business model in one location before they considered expansion. Levi Strauss built his eponymous denim work and Sportswear business from a base that was focused on the mine workers that were pouring into the California Gold Rush country in the mid-18th century.


The ability to discipline ones emotional urges and stick with the plan when things seem bleakest is so important. The discipline to work though problems that seem too vexing is something that many people lack. Work ethic that demonstrates the ability to overcome problems is essential.

Thomas Edison famously conducted over 1000 experiments before perfecting the incandescent light bulb. Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds were aspiring young actors in the 1950’s in Hollywood. Both were fired by their studio on the same day and told they had no future in the movies. The same happened to a young singer named Elvis Presley at the Grand Ol’ Opry in 1954. None quit. They had the self-confidence and discipline to keep pushing until they achieved their goals.


To me, this is the Number 1, most essential, but also rare trait that successful entrepreneurs possess. I do not believe that courage can be taught.

The courage to commit fully to a project is what separates commercially successful entrepreneurs from dreamers and failures. Fear of failure chokes courage. Fear of hearing “no” again and again smothers courage. Risk aversion today runs deep in contemporary society where security is prized above anything posing uncertainty and has become the norm.

Successful entrepreneurs fall early and often, but have the unique ability to get up and go back into action. Helena Rubenstein built one of the earliest international Cosmetic empires though she grew up impoverished in 19th century Poland. She scratched against huge odds and continually bet every asset she possessed on her products, and herself.

My Branding and Consumer Product Development Consulting firm is fortunate to have met hundreds of wonderful entrepreneurs. Unfortunately we have met many thousands more who expressed aspirations, but could not muster one or more of these five essential success traits. This is most disappointing because many of their products and concepts possessed excellent commercial appeal. Creating personal success, when starting with little or nothing, is never easy. If it was everybody would be doing it and they are not.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.