I know many of you are expecting me to mention Jay Z, 50 Cent, Russell Simmons, Mark Cuban or Daymond John when describing a serial entrepreneur, but I’m about to flip the script. I’m going to set this off by citing the godfather of serial entrepreneur, Mr. Benjamin Franklin. To many, this name resonates in American history along with the likes of George Washington, John Adams and James Madison, among others – the Founding Fathers.
But very few know that Franklin was one of the
Fast forward to today.
Many serial entrepreneurs, like Elon Musk, Sir Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, have mastered the art of risk taking and strategic innovation, embarking on projects that once were thought to be unwise, but that ultimately turned out to be successful.
The bottom line is that most serial entrepreneurs possess distinctive traits, and here are our top 10.
#1. Unbridled Passion
A serial entrepreneur has unbridled passion for what he or she does, regardless of the final result. Of course, it all always starts with a vision, a goal, sometimes a crazy goal, but then later the strange vision morphs into something real, palpable.
But in between you have hundreds, if not thousands, of hours and days logged by passionate entrepreneurs who are willing to sacrifice it all to see their projects through.
Walter Isaacson describes this uninhibited fervor excellently in his biography of Steve Jobs, “Steve Jobs, The Man Who Thought Different.”
#2. Risk Taking
Risk taking is a trait you see in most serial entrepreneurs. Some quit school – which is a risk in itself, given the fewer career prospects a degree-less profile attracts – while others have sacrificed their family and social lives.
Yet some have risked financial instability by investing millions of dollars in projects that never materialized. To serial entrepreneurs, financial losses are like tuition they pay to learn the lesson, master a concept, and graduate to a higher class where they can improve on former projects or create new, better products and services.
#3. Entrepreneurial Zeal
You’ve got to have entrepreneurial zeal to create not one, not two, not three, but several companies, even if, say, the first three are complete failures.
It takes a specific mindset to be a Ted Turner or Thomas Edison, get off from previous mistakes and go on to become business legends.
#4. Learning From Mistakes
Successful entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes, and then parlay that insight into operational astuteness that helps them thrive in future projects.
Very rarely would you see a serial entrepreneur who has only successes in his or her portfolio. But the important thing is not to repeat the same blunder or find ways to hedge future projects against the same set of risks.
#5. Strong Self-Confidence
To be a serial entrepreneur, you must be confident. Not just any kind of confident, though. You must possess a solid dose of self-confidence, the kind that shields you from self-doubt and makes you impervious to criticism, even if the path you take seems not to work…in the short term.
You can say too much of self-confidence becomes stubbornness, egoism or narcissism. And you would be right! But the bottom line is, you need strong self-confidence to be a Bill Gates, Henry Kaiser or Ted Turner.
#6. Growth, Not (Just) Profits
Serial entrepreneurs tend to reinvest profits in their companies to expand them. In other words, the initial focus is not necessarily to make money and become the next multimillionaire.
Most entrepreneurs are keen on building their business, solidify its sector imprint and grow its market share before thinking about selling the business to other investors.
Patience is essential in successful, serial entrepreneurship. Ask Oprah Winfrey who waited for several years before seeing her economic star shine and attaining domestic and international fame.
Patience goes hand-in-hand with self-confidence and passion, and most serial entrepreneurs don’t have a problem being patient. This is because they are so passionate about their idea or vision, they are willing to wait as long as necessary to see it through.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or a budding serial entrepreneur, work on your networking. Cultivate the company of other flourishing serial entrepreneurs, learn from their mistakes and successes, and make sure you engage them as often as possible.
Seek a mentor, preferably someone who has already walked the entrepreneurial path you now want to take. Also tap into your network to surround yourself with competent professionals, including experts in finance, business management, marketing and law.
#9. Realistic Optimism
Being optimistic is good in general, but even more so for a serial entrepreneur. Ask Magic Johnson, who embarked on a prosperous business career after a successful NBA career and…a less successful bout with disease.
As a serial entrepreneur, you need optimism to continue creating companies, especially if the last few ones were complete operational disasters. Being optimistic helps you take things one day at a time, one blunder at a time, and gradually fix things and learn from operational mistakes.
#10. Pursuit of Success
For most serial entrepreneurs, happiness does not necessarily come from profit-making – although it is important. What matters more is the pursuit of happiness, the ability to see a project go concept to successful implementation, and the chance to improve the lives of millions.
In that sense, serial entrepreneurs are akin to social entrepreneurs because they contribute – indirectly or directly – to lifting millions of people out of disadvantageous situations, such as illiteracy, famine, poverty or poor health.
To Sum It Up
Serial entrepreneurs are called so because they have unique traits that make them successful in the long term, even if short-term business stints do not pan out. These traits range from patience and self-confidence to passion, optimism, grit and pursuit of happiness. How do you match up to these traits? Are you Jay Z or Benjamin Franklin? Do you have grit?
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