10 Key Traits of Small Business Entrepreneurs


Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of best-selling books The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has identified 10 key traits found in all successful small business entrepreneurs. “Every large business that is now successful was once a small business. All small business entrepreneurs have experienced significant failures in business, but they have learned from their failures,” says Covey, vice chairman of Franklin Covey. “They confess to having had several painful and costly failures in a previous endeavor or early on in their current venture. But they learned that they had to persist, focus on the demands of the market and figure out another way to make it happen.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 56% of all small businesses fail within their first four years. Covey, who has not only been through the process of starting but also successfully growing a small business, has consulted with small, medium and large organizations about how to create and sustain business results over time including preparing businesses for sale.. In addition to learning from failure, Covey identifies the following 10 traits commonly found in successful small business entrepreneurs.

Stephen Covey’s Top 10 Key Traits of Successful Small Business Entrepreneurs


1. Value teamwork

Successful entrepreneurs recognize that it takes a team to produce success. They know it is never just one person who is responsible for the success of any business venture. They are gracious, appreciative, humble and give people the credit they deserve.

2. Are willing to change
They understand that change is inevitable, and they understand how to adapt to the changes around them in order to make their business grow.

3. Surround themselves with diversity
Successful entrepreneurs maximize the productivity of their business by hiring people who make their own weaknesses irrelevant. They see other peoples strengths as opportunities rather than threats.

4. Communicate effectively through feedback and active listening
They give instruction and feedback in a manner that empowers people rather than belittles them. In return, they are willing to listen and accept feedback from others.

5. Have a vision and plan for reaching their goals
Successful entrepreneurs know what they want. They have identified what is most important in order to achieve success and are not willing to sacrifice what is most important for what is merely important. They have created a strategic plan that defines how they will achieve their most important goals and by what deadline.

6. Proactively seek opportunities
Entrepreneurs do not sit and wait for opportunities to come their way. They are proactive and prepared for anything that comes along.

7. Are tireless, ceaseless, determined workers
To avoid becoming workaholics, successful entrepreneurs are highly effective during their working hours and know when it is time to go home. They seek balance in all aspects of their lives.

8. Understand that removing barriers is a necessary event
They are not afraid to terminate an employee who is the wrong person for the job, or if they simply resist the changes pertinent to company growth.

9. Are high-energy people
Entrepreneurs reach into the depths of their souls to find the energy they need to keep going and growing. Their energy is enough to motivate and inspire others to join or stay with the new venture.

10. Continually nurture the entrepreneurial spirit by taking risks and learning from mistakes
They willingly take risks and learn from others’ as well as their own mistakes. Entrepreneurs make decisions quickly and effectively by avoiding the bureaucracy and structure commonly found in large organizations.

Covey challenges small-business entrepreneurs to identify a significant setback or failure in their lives and one key lesson they learned from the experience. Then, he encourages them to decide what they will do differently when facing a similar situation. He also suggests developing a plan for a new project that builds on the lessons they have learned during this process.

“Those small-business entrepreneurs who are humble and willing to learn from their past mistakes and then apply that learning to their future endeavors will be successful over time. Businesses are not only built on success, but also on what is learned from failure,” says Covey.