8 Common Characteristics of Successful Business Owners

business owners

Over the past 15 years I’ve started several companies and helped thousands of others. In doing so, I’ve seen tremendous successes. I’ve also witnessed tremendous failures.

In assessing what I’ve seen, I’ve identified the following 8 common characteristics of those entrepreneurs and business owners who have enjoyed the most success. If you’re not doing any of these, now’s the time to start.

8 Characteristics of Successful Business Owners

1) Have a Crystal Clear Vision

If you don’t have a crystal clear vision of the company you are trying to create, you can’t possibly create it.

Figure out exactly the type of company you are trying to build. For example, in five years how many customers will you have? How many employees? What will your revenues be?

2) Have a Written Strategic Plan

Your vision is your dream. Your plan details how you will achieve that dream.

Your plan should identify what you must accomplish in the next twelve months to get on the right path to achieving your long-term vision. Among other things, your plan must document your product strategy, marketing strategy and human resource strategy.

3) Set Shorter-Term Goals

The most successful entrepreneurs and business owners also set shorter-term goals. Specifically, they identify what they and their company need to achieve in the next quarter, monthly and week to meet their annual goals.

They also meet with their teams to ensure all employees understand these goals and work together to achieve them.

4) Ongoing Education

To succeed requires continual education. This includes reading books and magazines (offline and online), attending events and networking with other successful entrepreneurs and business owners.

Having business mentors is another great way to get ongoing education and advice.

5) Satisfy Your Customers

If you can’t satisfy customers, your business will fail.

Always keep your customers top of mind. Focus relentlessly on their needs; not just on your needs.

6) Be a Great Marketer

If you are truly satisfying your customers, you will grow through word of mouth.

But in most cases, you want or need to grow even faster. So make sure you have a comprehensive marketing plan in place. Of particular importance is your promotion plan, or your plan to attract new customers.

The key to your promotion plan is to leverage as many marketing channels as possible. For example, if you are attracting new customers from radio ads, pay-per-click advertising, partnerships, direct mail and newspaper ads, you will get many more new customers than competitors who may only leverage one of these channels.

7) Be Laser-Focused in Your Work

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you are constantly faced with new opportunities and ideas. The key to your success is staying focused. By creating plans and setting (and sticking to) goals, you will achieve more.

That’s not to say to avoid all new opportunities. Rather, make sure you focus on hitting your short-term goals first, and then set up periodic meetings (perhaps monthly) to consider new ideas or opportunities.

8) Never Give Up

The life of an entrepreneur or business owner isn’t easy. There’s always more work to be done. And on any given day there may be significant ups and downs, such as landing or losing a big client.

Never give up. Build up a tolerance to the downs and realize that if you keep focusing on attaining your goals, you will.

We should all cherish the opportunity we have to run a business. By following these eight practices listed above, you can get the most out of your business and achieve the success you desire.

Success Photo via Shutterstock


Dave Lavinsky Dave Lavinsky is the author of, Start At The End, and a serial entrepreneur having founded companies in multiple areas. Dave runs GrowThink, a consulting and information products firm that has helped over 500,000 entrepreneurs and business owners to start, grow and sell their businesses.

24 Reactions
  1. I would add that a “written strategic plan” doesn’t have to be some huge document. It can be quite simple and quite short as long as it is enough to guide your decisions on a strategic level.

  2. I agree with Robert, I don’t think your plan has to be huge. You wouldn’t want to read it again and again! I think short and simple is key. For a strategic plan, I think it’s important to set short term goals. Setting goals, and dates to accomplish those goals can help a lot!

  3. Thanks Dave! I’m curious about the last item on your list – until when should you not give up your cause? They say that most entrepreneurs have a hard time cutting losses and when they realize that they have to do so, most of the time, it’s too late.

    • Shaleen,
      Good question. And there’s no easy answers here. I would rather give up too late then give up too early…right before the business starts to achieve big success. I think what’s most important is having an attitude that you won’t give up — which will motivate you and your team to work as hard as possible to achieve your goals.

  4. Shaleen, great question and Dave’s answer is on the money, but one thing that I would recommend, is to sit down with a business partner, your mentor or maybe your spouse and have a frank discussion regarding the “cutting your losses scenario”. Set some markers that can act as warning signs. If these warning signs are popping up far to often, then it might be time to sit down again with a business partner, mentor or spouse and revisit your “cutting your losses scenario”. Make sure this is someone that you can have this discussion with that can be honest and frank, and that you value there opinion.

  5. thanks for the article. This will serve as a very good resource material for students. For number two, I’ve read an article saying that all business plan should be written in pencil, and then it should posted where you can see it so that it could serve as your motivation. As for continuing education, nothing beats Learning everyday. For number 6, I believe Vivek Sood has a comprehensive marketing plan in place. Vivek Sood is an author and his book can be found on Goodreads entitled THE 5-STAR BUSINESS NETWORKS usually he uses what he preaches like the power of networking for the book. There would be contests for free books and sometimes he would rely on word of mouth. Like what you said the key to the promotion plan is to leverage as many marketing channels as possible. There are a lot of marketing strategies that can be made but for me the most effective would be the word-of-mouth.

    [Edited by Editor]

  6. Dave, sometimes we are so overwhelmed that an ebook or something more comprehensive we tend to put aside to read later. This succinct list is what I was looking for to display in my office to read over and over, yet it is full enough to give details on each of the eight listed items. Thanks for the information!

  7. Dave, all great charactersitics. But let’s not forget knowing when to leverage your team. Successful Business Owners don’t do it themselves.

  8. Dave, I’d totally agree with Rod’s comments – focusing on the great skills of your own staff and that from outside advisers can all add to the mix.


  9. My question is this. Say you do all that. Say you have success. Say you have growth that exceeds your expectations.. What happens when you reach a growth point..such that you dont know what to do next? The company is no longer the Mom and Pop operation you started?

    • Peter,
      The scenario you described should happen – you should grow to be beyond the Mom & Pop you started. What you need to do is to first figure out your goal for your company in 5 or more years — e.g., what revenues do you want to accomplish; and at that point, how many employees do you have, etc. Then, you need to develop the plan to get you there…particularly figuring out what you must accomplish in the next year to put you on the right path to meeting your 5 year goals.

  10. Great article ! I especially agree with the “staying focused” point. There are great opportunities every day, but choosing what not to do is even more important as choosing what to do.

    As far as plans, I’ve always stuck to a formula that has worked well for me: 1/2 to 1 page Executive Summary + a 5 sectionst business plan:

    1) Market
    2) Offer
    3) Organization
    4) Strategy
    5) Financials

    Simple to structure and read by everyone; partners, investors, key team members…

  11. mahamoud hassam aden

    i would add that i agree Dave! this point If you can’t satisfy customers, your business will fail.

  12. i agree with the point of not giving up because successful entrepreneurs always remain in business despite suffering losses

  13. Great article ! I especially agree with the “staying focused” point. There are great opportunities every day, but choosing what not to do is even more important as choosing what to do.

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