Society seems to have an irresistible penchant to pigeonhole human beings — to place them in boxes in which they are expected to stay. It’s a habit we should have broken long ago. The late, great track athlete Wilma Rudolph once stated, “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” As you might be aware, Rudolph suffered from polio as a child and wore a brace on her left leg until she was twelve; nevertheless, she wanted to run. Her hard work and perseverance eventually paid off. During the 1960 Olympic Games, Rudolph was acclaimed the fastest woman in the world and became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Games. What does this story have to do with being an entrepreneur? Some people believe individuals must possess specific traits to be successful entrepreneurs. Although possessing those traits may make being an entrepreneur easier, I don’t believe anyone should be discouraged from following their dreams if they don’t see themselves reflected in other people’s description of what entrepreneurs should look or act like.
Types of Entrepreneurs
Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media, readily admits, “Despite how they’re often treated, entrepreneurs are not a monolith. Instead, they’re driven by various motivations and approach business differently.” Nevertheless, humans are relentless in their efforts to create boxes into which people can be placed. Lesonsky notes, “This is illustrated by the annual Small Business Growth Trends report from Keap, which reveals four unique types of small business owners.” To find out more about these four types of entrepreneurs, Lesonsky interviewed Clate Mask, CEO of Keap. The four types of entrepreneurs identified by his company’s report are:
• Overwhelmed (28%): These entrepreneurs struggle to manage and grow their businesses and worry about their ability to succeed.
• Gratified (26%): Gratified small business owners genuinely enjoy working in their businesses. They feel successful and believe they can handle whatever challenges come their way.
• Growth-Focused (25%): This group has achieved a certain level of success and is hungry for more, focusing primarily on growing revenues, increasing profits, and bringing in more clients.
• Connected (22%): Connected entrepreneurs wear their small business pride like a badge of honor. They’re deeply committed to their clients and emotionally invested in their businesses.
Although those categories of entrepreneurs are interesting, they really don’t say much about the individuals who fall within them. Terry Tateossian, founding partner of Socialfix Media, believes there are five archetype entrepreneurs. They are:
• The Expert. According to Tateossian, “These entrepreneurs know their trade and become the best of the best before moving to a more competitive environment. They build strong expertise in applying theoretical and practical knowledge and use tried-and-true approaches to solve feasible and relevant problems. They are good at recognizing meaningful patterns and handle complexity well. They are able to identify relevant and important information and filter out the irrelevant. The downside for experts is that they often struggle to learn the business side of things.”
• The Innovator. Tateossian writes, “Innovators combine a blend of mental resilience, creativity and risk-taking to deliver innovative solutions that can be breakthroughs in their industry. Businesses, systems and processes that solve problems and customer pain points are the main directions I’ve seen innovators gravitate toward. Innovators are pioneers who have the vision, passion and ability to challenge the status quo. On the downside, they risk running out of money if they invest heavily in innovation and don’t get products to market before the competition does.”
• The Visionary. “This archetype,” Tateossian writes, “has a big vision, charisma and plenty of great ideas. They tend to be enthusiastic about their cause and take steps to make their visions succeed. Naturally, visionary leaders are also focused, as focus is crucial for achieving success. And they have the charisma to inspire others. … However, they may have an unrealistic sense of their abilities, importance and superiority and turn down new opportunities they believe are beneath them.”
• The Builder. According to Tateossian, “Builders are motivated to create, build and turn circumstances to their advantage. They are often described as ambitious, resourceful, organized and disruptive. … They are likely to be confident, ambitious and focused. Empire builders act strategically, delegate tasks and have the ability to inspire teams. Yet sometimes builders become fixated on controlling resources and exercising influence instead of allocating resources strategically.”
• The Delegator. Tateossian writes, “Delegators are not only able to successfully pass on responsibility and authority but also think longer-term and set their own course. They see opportunities that others missed, pursue their dreams no matter the circumstances, and view failure as a detour on the road to success.”
Mask’s list and Tateossian’s list are not mutually exclusive. Tateossian’s archetypes could easily find themselves in one of the buckets identified by Mask. A more interesting question is whether there are certain traits that entrepreneurs have in common.
Cosmin Panait, CEO and investment fund manager at GenCap Management, has identified six traits he believes help entrepreneurs become more successful. They are:
1. Persistence. “Anyone can have a great idea or a solid business plan,” Panait writes, “but it takes persistence to take your business idea to the next level. … Persistence demonstrates a will-do attitude that shows VCs and other investors you are prepared to do what it takes to cross the finish line. Being able to not only outline past challenges you’ve faced, but to document and demonstrate your ability to pivot, learn and improve when needed, shows investors a level of persistence they need to see before moving forward.” Justin Grome, Founder and CEO of Clonefluence, Inc., agrees with Panait. He writes, “Be determined to overcome obstacles. … After taking a big ‘hit’ in business, as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to move on quickly and address why that happened so you limit the chances of making the same mistake twice. If you are able to correct the mistake, then that is even better.”
2. Decisiveness. According to Panait, “You need to be comfortable with decision-making. Your choices will determine the trajectory of your business and you need to stand by your decisions. You won’t always be correct or make the right choice, but you must be willing to commit to the process.” Grome believes decisiveness falls under the category of leadership. He explains, “Always be a leader, never a follower.”
3. Curiosity. Innovators always possess a curious nature. Panait writes, “A need to know or a desire to expand will keep a business from getting stale and disengaging from the world around it. Serious investors love to see entrepreneurs pursue answers to challenging questions or explore opportunities with the potential to improve processes, productivity, and long-term potential.” Grome adds, “Keep your mind open. Having an open mind in any industry allows you to work without always being in your comfort zone, find new solutions quickly and listen to great suggestions you receive from others. Building a business isn’t a one-person task to do. Listen to your employees, your clients and your investors.”
4. Team building. According to Panait, “Good leaders can motivate the people around them, but they are also good at developing and empowering their teams. … Demonstrating an ability to put a quality team together with complementary talents showcases your ability as a leader. It also lets prospective investors know you understand the importance of teamwork and what it takes to transform a vision into reality.”
5. Adaptability. Charles Darwin taught that those species best able to adapt to changing circumstances had the best chance to survive. The same holds true in business. Panait explains, “If you’ve ever run an organization or held a leadership position for any length of time, you know change is inevitable. The economy changes, the market changes and consumers are notorious for changing their minds and shopping habits. Entrepreneurship requires facing new challenges or embracing new opportunities when you least expect them. It will be impossible for you to mentally or financially prepare for every scenario, which is why adaptability is important.”
6. Self-acceptance. The Greek philosopher Socrates advised, “Know thyself.” That remains good advice. Panait explains, “You aren’t going to be perfect; fortunately, neither is your competition. You will make decisions that don’t turn out so well, and you will have days when you don’t get everything done. For entrepreneurs, self-acceptance is the confidence needed to keep moving forward and following your goals.”
Grome adds a seventh trait he believes entrepreneurs should possess: passion. He writes, “Be passionate about your industry. If you are passionate about building your business, then it will never feel like you are working. It will allow you to work continuously and purely love every second of it.” The late poet e.e. cummings once wrote, “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” The human spirit is unwilling to be placed in a box. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be a successful entrepreneur.
 Rieva Lesonsky, “Find Out What Kind Of Entrepreneur You Are—And Why It Matters,” Forbes, 8 March 2023.
 Terry Tateossian, “The Five Entrepreneur Archetypes: Which One Are You?” Forbes, 24 January 2023.
 Cosmin Panait,
 Justin Grome, “Four Traits To Have As An Entrepreneur,” Forbes, 29 December 2022.