Successful Small Business Owner Traits – Be Like Roombas!

small business success traits and characteristics

What small business success traits do owners share in common? In other words, what characteristics define small business success?

The answer is not one thing alone.  Success comes from a stack of character traits, daily habits and attitudes.

Yet, most successful small business owners I know share certain success characteristics in common. Sometimes owners recognize these characteristics in themselves.

They may even consciously cultivate daily habits that lead to success. For example, owners may set their clocks to get up early and get into the office at dawn so they can work uninterrupted.

Other times owners may not consciously be aware of a characteristic in themselves. The trait could be a subconscious attitude or outlook.  Even so, once aware they can strive to change their business mindset.

As I looked for a way to describe the characteristics and traits of successful small business owners, I hit upon … the Roomba.  Roombas are those ingenious little self-propelled vacuum cleaners.

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“What????” you say! “Business owners are like vacuum cleaners????”

Bear with me as I explain. And no, this isn’t a commercial for vacuum cleaners. It is just a fun analogy I am using to emphasize the success traits I see from talking with and observing many thousands of business owners over the years.

Top 10 Small Business Success Traits

Below are the top 10 small business success traits.  For each one I illustrate the success characteristics with examples from those quirky little devices.

1. Persistent

Small business owners are quietly persistent. They tend to keep a low profile.  They may be little known outside of their local community or industry.

Their days are not filled with publicity.  Some of the most successful businesses are ones you’ve probably never heard of!

The business may not be exciting to the outside world. However, it is exciting to the business owner — because it’s their business.

Small business owners stick with it.  They do it every day, no matter how boring their work may seem to outsiders.  They have a passion for it, a passion that drives persistence. In their quiet fashion, these owners get the job done.

Likewise, Roombas go about their business persistently and without fanfare — just getting the job done.

2. Confident

Successful small business owners give the appearance of being fearless. Maybe they feel fear. But they manage to overcome it and go places they have never been before.

They do it all the time, because life throws new situations, issues and problems at us daily. In a small business, just coming into work each day seems like an adventure in new challenges!

Roombas are the same way. They are not afraid of the dark. They gamely go into nooks and crannies, regardless of what may be lurking under that sofa or in that closet.

Successful business owners know the value of confidence. Often they have to project confidence THE MOST when they feel the least confident inside.

  • Employees take their cues from the leader. If the leader seems confident, the team will be more confident.
  • The same goes with the marketplace.  If the owner seems confident – buyers respond positively.
  • Partners, lenders, suppliers all respond more positively to a confident owner.  They are more likely to want to do business with a confident owner.

Confidence is one of the most important character traits of successful small business owners.

3. Resilient

When successful business owners encounter an obstacle, they figure a way around it.  They bounce back and find another path.

That path might involve revamping our product. It might mean revising their business model.  They change direction to keep going.

The same happens with Roombas when they bump into walls and furniture. They just back up. Or they go around. They’re designed to figure out how to circumvent obstacles.

Successful business owners do not quit as soon as they hit something in their path.  They adjust and keep moving.   Resiliency is one of the most important small business success traits.

4. Always Learning

The most successful business owners are always observing. They look everywhere for new ideas.

Smart business owners are trend spotters. They keep their ears to the ground for faint signals and small marketplace and cultural changes. After picking up faint signals they mull them over.

They internalize them and make adjustments and learn from them. They use these ideas and information for competitive advantage.

While Roombas don’t pick up new ideas, they do go around picking up stuff. It’s amazing how much they pick up, even when the floor doesn’t look dirty.  Even the smallest thing is not overlooked.

5. Self Starting

Small business owners are the ultimate self-starters.  Successful business owners have a sense of internal self-motivation.

Business owners “drive” themselves.

Like Roombas, business owners are self-propelled. They don’t need someone to tell them what to do next or when to do it.

As soon as they wake up, they are ready to go.  That’s why so many business owners are early risers.  They can’t wait to get started!

6. Appreciate Others

Small business owners know that no business is an island.  One of the most important small business success traits is appreciation for people.

Small business owners need others — and they know it.

  • They value their employees, knowing the team is critical to success.
  • Owners appreciate their service providers and partners.
  • Most of all, small business people cherish their customers.

Roombas may be self-propelled and make their rounds independently. But they still depend on someone to empty the bag, etc.

7. David vs. Goliath Optimistic

Successful small business owners are optimistic in the face of Goliaths.

Even if we don’t consciously think of ourselves or our businesses as battling larger Goliaths, in essence we do that without shrinking. That’s because our businesses tend to be smaller than our competitors. Our businesses are smaller than market forces. And we’re much smaller than government agencies.

Yet, small businesses still must co-exist in an environment with all these larger forces around us.  Somehow we find a way to thrive. We do that by remaining optimistic in a world bigger than us.

Like Roombas, small business owners don’t quit or give up just because they run into something bigger.  Nor are business owners intimidated by their company’s small size.

8. Leverage Technology

Successful business owners know it’s better to work smarter, not harder.  They leverage technology for efficiency, ultimate productivity. They avoid unnecessary manual labor.

Guess what? Roombas also rely on technology under the hood for their efficient operation and productivity. The latest Roombas turn themselves on and off. Through technology they avoid inefficient human intervention as much as possible.

Small business owners today are accomplishing great things in their businesses — things they could only have dreamed of five years ago. And it’s all because of the freedom and efficiency they gain from technology.

9. Don’t Complain

Successful business owners don’t whine. They don’t act like victims when something challenging crosses their path. They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves.

Roombas are the same way. Coins and chunky objects that might clog up a bigger machine or cause it to whine loudly are handled with ease.

Successful business owners “suck it up” without complaint.

10. Focus

Successful business owners focus on one or a few things and do them well. Focus is the small business success trait that can make or break you.

The most successful business owners are conscious of what they do NOT do well. They do not try to handle everything themselves. Instead, they:

  • Hire talented people.
  • Outsource strategically.
  • Know the value of saying no at times.

Like those quirky little machines, savvy owners don’t try to do everything.  They stick closely to core competencies.

Summary of Character Traits of Successful Small Business Owners

In summary, we can all learn to cultivate success traits from those crazy little devices.

I hope you enjoyed this lighthearted look at character traits of successful small business owners.  And I hope you will pick a few traits from the above list. Actively cultivate them to drive your own success.  And adapt new habits and mindset for success.

Image: iRobots, mixed by Small Business Trends

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Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

20 Reactions
  1. Haha, what an odd comparison….and yet somehow you made it make perfect sense!

  2. We small business owners know exactly what it will take us to build a brand, raise awareness, challenge conventions, et cetera.
    It’s nice to know that the seemingly menial tasks we all trod through every day come together in the end to promote our products, exactly as we want them to be promoted, to whom, where and why.
    Sadly, like the Roomba, small business owners often get taken for granted, or are only pulled out when you need to –pardon the pun– “clean house.” But the reality is, we small business owners aren’t just lying in wait. Unlike the Roomba, we can’t be turned off and stowed in a closet. We’re always thinking, always writing, always promoting — consciously or not. And analogies like this Roomba post will hopefully shed some light on what we’re doing… ALL THE TIME!
    Excellent topic.

  3. Not only do I like being compared to a Roomba (love the name), but I also like the success traits that we small business owners share with Roombas! I also agree that not one success trait is particularly common amongst all owners (other than perhaps a strong desire for success)! Thanks Anita, for an entertaining and relevant analogy.

  4. Great analogy Anita. Perhaps one more is that the Roomba does not wait around after finishing the job expecting to be thanked. I think a lot of small business owners who are successful have humility.

  5. Excellent! I’m impressed with Roomba but more importantly- the small business owners imagery presented in this article.

  6. What a great analogy. I myself have a Roomba but I never considered how they could relate to small business owners. How funny. You’re right that like business owners, the Roomba may get stuck in a corner but it works and works itself til it gets righted and gets on it’s correct path.

  7. What a cute story and a great analogy. You’ve pieced it altogether so neatly. Did you just buy a Roomba? 🙂

  8. Nice! Very interesting metaphor.

  9. Does the Roomba kick out cash like an ATM? That seems to be the one thing all of us running SMBs could use a little extra of. Then I could lay in bed at night and think of the hundreds of places to use the cash … like more marketing, hiring more good people, automating a few processes. I’d like the Roomba model that spits out C-notes whenever it bumps into an obstacle.

  10. How does the Roomba get the dust in the corners? It looks like a fun gadget.

  11. What a fun article!

    Hey Dale – It doesn’t kick out cash — but it can suck up the cash 🙂 Sorry, couldn’tresist. Maybe I can reverse that and say that a Roomba can pick up cash in hard to reach places.

  12. bwaaahaaaahaaaa!

    I want me a Roomba!

    Oh, I forgot. As a smallbiz operator I AM a Roomba.

  13. @ Friendly Computer Guy — yep, odd comparison but somehow it just seemed so apt! Glad it made you laugh. Thats what I intended.

    @ Jackie — true the comparison only goes so far. I loved the imagery of the little dedicated thing that just keeps going. That’s what I say to aspiring entrepreneurs or other business owners who may be feeling discouraged: keep going. Half of success in life is showing up, and the other half is not quitting too soon.

    — Anita

  14. @ Kris, yes I too thought it was relevant. And heck — is there any reason we can’t have fun thinking about what we need to do to be successful? Business is serious, but let’s not take ourselves too seriously, right? I love a good laugh!

    @ Susan, so true about not waiting around to be thanked. Gee, I’d still be waiting years later! 🙂

    — Anita

  15. Hmm, sounds familiar to my recent blog post:

    Why Web Entrepreneurs Are Like Robot Vacuum Cleaners

  16. Hi Philip,

    I like your point too, about making a choice between driving yourself to the wall during product development, or adjusting based on metrics and getting back to home base.

    Too bad I did not know about your post or I would have included a nod to you. If you had used the word “Roomba” and the phrase “small business” I probably would have seen it, as I now try to remember to do Google searches for my blog post titles before I publish them.

    Thanks for sharing it!

    — Anita

  17. This is a great analogy! And now I want a roomba! Thank you so much for your insight and compliments towards the small business owner. I feel very motivated to go about my day with the persistence of that little roomba. Thanks!

    Elizabeth Naylor

  18. Anita,
    I love your list!
    I know what I need to work on.
    Thanx for the reminder…
    The Franchise King

  19. Franchise Information

    Roombas are a great example that every great entrepreneur should practice to grow they’re Small Business into a giant.
    Visit to see many opportunities available from nearly every industry then hire a Roomba to take care of it all!

  20. No whining – I like this one. Ask me what is the best way to success I will say: stop whining. Don’t give up on first misfortune.