Test Your Entrepreneurial Skills With This Simple Quiz

image001A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes.

The six words, which I believe encompass the key characteristics of a successful, serial entrepreneur, are: Fervent, Wily, Selfless, Optimistically Pessimistic and Self-aware.

At first glance, it may appear that a number of commonly assumed attributes are missing from my list. For instance, Alan Hall cataloged 27 entrepreneurial traits in THIS Forbes article. However, I believe that the personality characteristics identified by Mr. Hall are subsumed by the six words that comprise my list.

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Below each of the six serial entrepreneur attributes (I grouped the related traits identified by Mr. Hall). Review this list and give yourself one point for each of Mr. Hall’s traits that you believe others would attribute to you. If you feel you cannot be appropriately objective, ask someone you trust to rate you.

Fervent – having or displaying a passionate intensity

Successful entrepreneurs are not thwarted by challenges. They always find a way through, around, under or over the obstacles in their path. Failure isn’t on the menu.

Related traits:

  • A commitment to purpose with passion
  • Fortitude
  • Dedication
  • Self-starter/proactive
  • High energy level

Wily – marked by skill in achieving a desired end especially with cunning or craft

Unlike government bureaucrats, startup pros typically cannot solve problems by throwing money at them. This perpetual resource deficit requires creative and frugal solutions that are often counter intuitive and never obvious.

Related traits:

  • Opportunistic
  • Creative/innovative spirit
  • Decisive/results-oriented
  • Resourceful/resilient
  • Tenacity/perseverance
  • Flexible/adaptable
  • Ability to accept rejection and turn failures into learning opportunities
  • Strong negotiating skills and ability to develop win/win results
  • Ability to create strategic alliances/understanding of leverage

Selfless – having no concern for self, unselfish

Most entrepreneurs have a healthy dose of self-interest. However, serially successful startup leaders place their stakeholders’ well being before their own personal gain. Situations inevitably arise in which key executives could covertly self-deal and enhance their financial outcomes at the expense of their fellow employees and investors. Consistent winners resist this temptation.

Related traits:

  • Integrity
  • Leadership skills
  • Team building/teamwork abilities
  • Open minded and willing to listen to others’ views
  • Strength of character

Optimistically Pessimistic – assured of the achievability of long-term goals, yet nervous about the attainability of near-term milestones

This schizophrenic mindset ensures that an entrepreneur maintains an unyielding belief in the manifestation of their vision, while never taking for granted the execution of their startup’s most basic tasks.

Related traits:

  • Courage/willingness to take risks
  • Positive attitude
  • Vision/ability to see things as they might be and to anticipate change
  • Self-confident, assured

Self-aware – conscious of one’s actions and thoughts

I’m not sure if there is a “most important” entrepreneurial trait, but if there were, it would be this one. Sufficient self-awareness is vital when securing resources, such as operating capital, employees, partners and customers. It also facilitates making decisions without regard for one’s ego and learning from one’s mistakes.

Related traits:

  • Authenticity
  • Ability to engender trust/confidence/respect, to develop credibility
  • Clarity/consistency of thought
  • Knowing what you don’t know

How many of these characteristics define you? Score yourself according to this appallingly accurate scale:

>19 points: Elon Musk wants his DNA back

19 – 15 points: Zuckerberg on line four, something about an offer letter

14 – 10 points: Entrepreneur in training

< 10 points: Ah… keep your government job

Follow my startup-oriented Twitter feed here: @johngreathouse. I promise I will never tweet about long walks on the beach or that killer burrito I just ate.

John Greathouse

John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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  • Troy Hoidal

    Thanks John. Getting me to think I need to take a few more shots in this game!
    Best to you,

  • John Greathouse

    Troy – you know what they say about shooting and scoring. You can’t have one without the other.

    Best of luck to you.

  • Donald Perkins

    Thanks John! Can qualify as “entrepreneur in training at below 50% of the traits? Seems like a low bar to me, lol. Definitely a good list to aspire to score higher!

  • PS

    I got a score of 24. I have no background in entrepreneurship. Do you suggest exploring further in that considering to start working on an idea?

  • John Greathouse

    Yes, start working on an idea. You can do it in your spare time at first. If your market validation efforts are promising, you can then consider giving it your full attention. Best of luck to you.

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