5 Common Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

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Being an entrepreneur is no easy task; it certainly isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of hard work, determination and dedication — with a bit of luck sprinkled in. Ultimately, most entrepreneurs choose their paths because of the reward (whether that reward is financial, control over their lives, or the ability to create a new product or service).

While there are so many different types of entrepreneurs, there are common threads among them all.  From Henry Ford to Bill Gates, entrepreneurs all possess certain traits that make them great at what they do.

1) They have passion.

The key to being a successful entrepreneur is loving what you do. To create a successful business, you need to be passionate about it. It requires a lot of time and dedication so if you don’t have the passion to see it through, it won’t work. For an entrepreneur, success means a lot more than just money or seeing a return on their investment. It’s both a personal and professional dream fulfilled.

2) They aren’t afraid of hard work and risk.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t pretty. The majority of your time will be spent in the trenches. You’ll work on building a team around you but in the beginning, you’re a one-person team. You’ll wear many different hats and to be successful, you need to be willing to do them all. Owning your own business isn’t as glamorous as it may seem on the outside and successful entrepreneurs aren’t afraid of hard work. Many times, it’s risky — leaving a “steady” 9-to-5 job to start a business from scratch.

3) They’re leaders.

There’s comes a point when you can’t do it all by yourself. The fact is, no one has the know-how to do every job in an organization and do it well. As a successful entrepreneur, you know exactly who you need on your side and build a core team around you. Instead of trying to do everything yourself, you delegate. If you can’t lead, you can’t succeed.

4) They’re nimble.

Turning your idea into a business is tough and a lot of curveballs can be thrown your way. A mark of a successful entrepreneur is being able to roll with the punches. A successful entrepreneur is nimble. When something doesn’t go their way, they’re able to adapt. There is always a Plan B and it’s just as good as Plan A.

5) They’re planners.

All entrepreneurs take risks. It’s the nature of the profession. But at the same time, those who are most successful take calculated risks. They don’t lead blindly. They know what they’re getting themselves into, understand the potential pitfalls and have a plan of action.

In Praise of Slowness [VIDEO]

Thanks to my friend Scott McPherson for forwarding me this video of Carl Honoré’s TEDTalk from 2005, “In praise of slowness.”

As Honoré says in his talk:

“We live in a world stuck in fast forward; a world obsessed with speed; with doing everything faster; cramming more and more into less and less. Every moment of the day feels like a race against the clock.”

I’d love for you to watch this video and let me know what you think. Agree? Disagree? Are there ways in which you’ve successfully slowed down your work or life in a way that made you more productive and happy?

Yes, coding is important, but let’s first teach everyone to create quality content

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President Obama recently kicked off Computer Science Week by announcing that everybody should learn to “code.”

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says that, “Becoming literate in code is as essential to being literate in language and math.”

O’Reilly Radar’s Mike Loukides writes this piece about “the reason everyone should learn to code.”

Yes, coding is an important skill.  The ability to create quality content, however, is just as important.

I grew up loving to write, and won my first writing competition through our local library back in 6th grade (for an essay, entitled, “The Great Tsunami.”)

In college, I followed a public relations career track, and was required to take a writing test for every internship for which I applied.  Writing tests were the norm for my first several job applications.

Since that time, much has changed. 140-character tweets are as important as 400-word press releases.  Photo captions and six second Vine “scripts” can make or break a marketing campaign. Concise emails pitching your product or yourself to reporters, or prospective employers, can make or break your career.

Despite those changes, I believe the written word is as important as ever.

At the same time, I’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the ability of young professionals to produce quality content.

During the past decade, I’ve seen many resumes and interviewed dozens of candidates for a variety of communications-related positions.  The most common skill that has been lacking among those candidates is the ability to write clearly, concisely and with good grammar.

I’m not alone.  In 2010, Dr. Andrew Lingwall of Clarion University released a paper showing the results of a study showing a decline in basic writing skills of university students.  According to his paper, during the past ten years the overall writing skills of the average college student has greatly decreased.

Some may argue that the dawn of technology and social media has made writing skills obsolete. I would argue that just the opposite is true.  In fact, these advancements have made the type of short, concise writing I mentioned earlier more vital.

Further, I’ve always thought that this type of writing is much more difficult than longer-form writing.  As Mark Twain famously said, “If I had more time, I would have written a short letter.”

This type of “short” writing dominates our world. Those who can create it well are in demand.

Despite this, it’s the tech, the apps and the coding — the shiny, new toys — that get all the attention.

It’s important to remember, however, that without good, quality content, these tech tools are like hammers without nails; screwdrivers without screws.

Take the example of Barack Obama’s much-ballyhooed online campaign. There have been countless stories about the tech, the ex-Google coders, and the apps employed by the campaign. What’s been less reported is the massive amount of testing that went into every piece of content produced by the Obama team; the meticulous work that went into creating email subject lines, tweets, Facebook posts, online ad creative, and blog posts.  Yes, it was the tech that delivered this content, but it was the content that motivated and connected communities.

Look at Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram. These were built (and continue to grow because of) great coders. They are all useless, however, without content.  Those who master them are those who can produce killer content.

The future will rely on those who can create this quality content to market their products; tell their stories; tell the stories of their employers; and motivate and capture the imaginations of consumers, voters and donors.

The adage, “content is king” is an old one. It’s also never been more true.

4 Tips to Help You Unclutter Your Inbox

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Believe it or not (especially those of you who have been in the path of this winter’s “Polar Vortex”), spring cleaning is right around the corner.  We’re in the digital age now and, as a result, we can’t neglect to include our “digital clutter” in our spring cleaning efforts. If you’re a little ashamed by how unruly your inbox has gotten, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Here are 4 simple ways you can clear up the clutter in your inbox:

1) Delete, delete, delete

If you’re feeling daring, delete your whole inbox and start from scratch. But if the sound of that gives you a heart attack, start small. The reason your inbox has gotten so crazy is probably because you don’t delete emails. Put an hour on your calendar every Friday to go through your emails from the past week and delete anything you will never need again. For everything else, respond to it or file it away.

2) Create Some Folders And File It Away

At one point or another, you’ve probably had a filing cabinet somewhere with a bunch of folders that each had a little tab – taxes, bills, etc. You need to replicate that for your inbox. Think about some major categories that would work for you and create a folder for each of them. After you’ve read the email, put it away in the right folder. That way, it won’t clog up your inbox and you’ll know exactly where to find it later on when you need it.

3) Unsubscribe

If you’ve ever shopped online, then you probably get what seems like a million promotional emails from retailers every single day – most of which you don’t read but still sit in your inbox. To save your inbox some space, pick a few stores you like and keep yourself on those mailing lists. Otherwise, unsubscribe from everything. It’s also great for your wallet since you’ll be less tempted to shop sales.

4) Separate It

You have a separate email accounts for work and personal emails, why not everything else? Like the “file it away” method but on a bigger scale, you can also create separate accounts for everything — work, family, friends, shopping. That way, you can check just the accounts that are important to you and ignore everything else until you’re ready.

While we don’t put much importance on how tidy we keep our inboxes, you’ll be surprised by much less stressed you feel and more productive you get just by organizing your emails.