Looking to make it big in the world of self-employment? Small businesses have increased 49% since 1982 and the explosion in the gig economy may have you thinking about striking out on your own.

Some people think all you need is a good idea and some start-up funds, but there’s a lot more that goes into building a company. We work with a lot of successful small business owners and we’ve been taking notes. We’ve compiled a definitive list of traits that everyone needs to run a successful business. How do you measure up?


Things happen. Life happens. Even if you plan for any contingency, you will still be put in a position you didn’t expect at some point while running a business. Maybe your best sales person quits without notice or your biggest client goes under. Being flexible, having a backup plan and even having a flexible personality, one that allows you to work with a lot of different types of people, are invaluable skills to weathering the long-term.


Coffee may get you through long days, but passion is what will drive you to keep doing your best work, even when the going gets tough.


This buzzword has educators, parents and business leaders fired up. If you haven’t heard of it, grit is an almost indefinable trait that combines courage, persistence and strength of character. Some educators believe that it determines success later in life. Every leading self-made business leader in the world, from Richard Branson and Sheryl Sandberg to Elon Musk and Bill Gates have grit. They have all overcome major setbacks and responded to them with more ideas, better solutions and bigger energy to keep their businesses going strong.

Real grit is what takes someone from being a good employee to being a true entrepreneur.

A focus on goals and metrics

Grit is no good if you don’t have goals and a time frame in mind. You can’t measure success without goals and standards, and building goals into your business plan is the best way to start on the right foot. Revisiting those goals at least twice a year will keep you on the right track.


We believe in asking for help and hiring people who are better than you are at what they do. But as a small business owner just starting out, you will wear many hats and have to rely on your own skills. You may be your company’s only employee for a while, which means you’re not just a decision maker — you have to run day-to-day operations for marketing, sales, HR, legal, accounting and more. Inherent self-reliance (and an uncanny ability to google “how to” videos and articles) is the only way to get through it.

Long-term vision and short-term efficiency

The ability to plan for the future and clearly see where you want to be in 1, 5 or 10 years is important for any business owner. But the path to reaching that vision is a series of much smaller or even minute daily tasks and goals. Being able to see where the smaller tasks fit into your larger goals will keep you and your team going, and give you much-needed perspective during inevitable downswings.


You don’t have to be a design legend or a Pulitzer-worthy writer to be successful at running your own business, but you do have to have a creative mindset. How can you make your business stand out? What’s the next big way everyone will be using social media? What can you offer your employees to keep them on board when you can’t afford to give them a pay bump? These are questions that need creative solutions to keep a business ahead of the curve.

So are you destined for success? Chances are, you wouldn’t even be thinking about starting your own business if you didn’t already have some or even most of these qualities. The good news is that you can learn and cultivate these traits in yourself and your team to take your business to the next level.