How do you know if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?


Many professionals want to start their own venture but are scared of failing. Many of them do not know if they have a multi-faceted personality that is needed to run a business successfully. How should such professionals know for sure if they have what it takes to run a business?

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asked Mar 19 '10 at 02:48
185 points
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9 Answers


Most people who start down the path have no idea if they "have what it takes". It really is a game of perseverance. It is likely that many of the ideas, concepts and ventures you (or anyone) try will fail. The real test is to decide to keep going (not necessarily with the same idea - but in general.

You learn as you go.

Gates, Jobs, Brin, et al all started as people with just an idea. They were not born CEOs. You do the best you can, learn, and hopefully succeed.

answered Mar 19 '10 at 06:42
Tim J
8,346 points


Find a mentor who can help you at the outset determine if you want to take the journey. And if you do, can help you along the way travel the right path. A mentor, many mentors.

As Tim says, it's virtually impossible to know what it takes without having done it. That's where you use your mentor.

answered Mar 19 '10 at 07:23
4,214 points


Joydeep - you write "Many professionals want to start their own venture but are scared of failing" - how very true. Be aware that many (arguably most) entrepreneurs are still scared of failure when they're out there running their business. Fear of failing is just a part of life all the way until you succeed - read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art will give you an excellent insight to this phenomen.

There's a really simple way to tell whether you're up to up to the job - just make the leap. To me that's the difference between people who talk about starting their own business and true entrepreneurs - the former group of people never have the guts to go stand on their on two feet. To be fair, this isn't a criticism - "I'm better than you because I started my own business and you were too scared" sort of thing; the world would be a terrible place if every single individual was out trying to start their own thing and nobody wanted to be employed, and it's also a fact that the lonely world of the entrepreneur isn't for everybody.

I'm not saying that you should be reckless - you should definitely read, research and take advice as been suggested above. My point is simply that you won't know whether you've got it what it takes until you put your future on the line and go try!

answered Mar 19 '10 at 17:13
Steve Wilkinson
2,744 points


I'd encourage you to read the E-Myth. It tells you the truth about what it really takes to be an entrepreneur. I mention this book often, but it has a wealth of entrepreneurial info.

answered Mar 20 '10 at 01:12
Keith De Long
5,091 points


As a small business law attorney, I've represented hundreds and hundreds of startups across many industries. That experience coupled with my own experience as an entrepreneur has led me to believe that there are 9 critical characteristics of an entrepreneur:

  • Tenacity
  • Healthy Ego
  • Leadership Drive
  • Creativity

  • Street Smarts
  • Coping Skills
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Risk Taker
  • Common Sense

Certainly, not every entrepreneur has every, single one of these qualities. And clearly, even the ones we do have, are not all at the same level of strength. Furthermore, you may not realize you are strong in one of these areas until you are already "out there" as an entrepreneur. But my point is this---if you read down this list and don't credibly believe that you possess many of these qualities, then you might want to explore whether entrepreneurship is really for you before you leap.

If you're interested in reading article I wrote about this topic, you can find it at

answered Mar 20 '10 at 12:18
Traci D. Ellis
91 points


Everytime I wonder about this myself, or hear someone say they do, I always remember the autobiography of Sam Walton. It's reassuring to know that even the man did not know what to do early in his business, and only survived through trial and error and learning from others. I believe he only attained what he did because:

  1. He loves what he does and he knows it (retail)
  2. Work really hard and long - that's why 1. is important
  3. Persevere no matter what. He lost his store he built for 5 years because of a simple but grave error and had to start all over again at the age of 32
  4. Focus not on yourself, but on customers and associates.
  5. He never stopped learning, but kept on improving and improving.
answered Aug 2 '10 at 02:08
Heherson Tan
79 points


I think the best way to do this is to develop your idea to a point where you can gain funding for it. If someone else or a bank is willing to give you start-up money or a loan, they believe you have what it takes. You will never really know unless you try to execute on your ideas.

Best wishes,


answered Mar 19 '10 at 03:03
Jed Regan
266 points
  • Agree with executing the idea, but I'd focus on customers instead of investors. – Jeff O 14 years ago


A cruel and funny answer may be this...

If you have to ask, you don't.

But truthfully, very little people have what it takes in terms of skills, resources and network when they get started.

Therefore I can only point to persistence and perseverance as a prerequisite quality, very similar to the experiment where they put marshmallows in front of kids and see how long they can hold off before eating them.

answered Mar 19 '10 at 12:51
G Rex
683 points


Felix Dennis, publishing tycoon, wrote a mindblowing article on the mentality of a self-made rich person. I encourage you to read the entire article, but here is one small excerpt:

After a lifetime of making money and ob
serving better men and women than me fall by the wayside, I am convinced that fear of failing in the eyes of the world is the single biggest impediment to amassing wealth.

answered Mar 20 '10 at 01:58
Joseph Turian
895 points

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