10 traits of the most successful small business owners that I know

Starting a small business can be fun and exciting, but growing a small business into a successful one in the long term is a whole different ball game. Being a small business owner myself, I meet and deal with a lot of successful business owners. Here are 10 traits of the most successful small business owners that I know:

1. Focus and determination to succeed

If you attempt to do everything, you won’t achieve anything. 

Successful small business owners know what they want their businesses to achieve and focus all of their efforts on that. They define and set S.M.A.R.T goals for their businesses, then break them down into smaller action plans to execute

If you’re a small business owner, chances are you have a lot on your plate. There are countless interruptions, people looking to you for decisions, and also things to deal with on a daily basis. In this case, being focused means that you are able to differentiate what is important and prioritize your time and efforts

With a strong focus also comes strong determination. Successful small business owners are determined to get what they want and to achieve their business goals. This causes them to consistently put in more effort and time compared to the competition. Over time, this adds up to more results, more opportunities, and more success

2. Confidence

The word “Confidence” originated from the Latin word “Confidere”, which means to have full trust – Oxford Languages

The most successful small business owners I know are confident people. They are confident because they have full trust in:

  • Their own abilities to face challenges and solve problems
  • The cause that their businesses are here to serve
  • The problem their businesses are here to solve 

With confidence, small business owners are able to instil trust and earn the respect of the people they work with. All of which will increase their chances of achieving success

While confidence does come naturally for some, this is a trait that can definitely be learned. Many successful small business owners I know put in a lot of effort and time to hone their skills and build up their confidence. 

Having said that, there will be times that self doubt will take over. But the important thing is at the end of the day, successful small business owners will find the confidence to bring them back on the right track

3. Passionate

Successful small business owners are passionate about what they do and their business cause. 

Because they love what they do, they:

  • Are more willing to put in longer work hours compared to their competitors
  • Have the ability to rally other people to join their cause
  • Can motivate their staff and internal stakeholders more effectively
  • Can spark the interest of other potential partners

All of which will give them an edge over their competitors

There’s also one thing I know from experience – Small business owners face challenges on a daily basis. The road to success is a difficult, and not to mention, overcrowded one.

Small business owners that are passionate about what they do push harder when they face adversities. If you are not passionate about your small business, it can be extremely difficult for you to grow your small business in the long haul. Even worst, you might give up on your small business in the face of a major challenge

4. Fiscally aware

I know a very successful travel agency owner in Indonesia. During one of my visits there, she said one thing to me that stuck with me until this very day – Finance is the heartbeat of every company.

Successful small business owners are fiscally aware. They know the importance of properly managing the finances of their small businesses.

Being fiscally aware includes:

  • Knowing how to spend their money – They carefully consider which aspects of the business spending their money on will give them the biggest returns, even if the returns aren’t immediate
  • Having a budget – They have a budget for their small businesses and they stick to it. They also account for some flexibility in the event an unexpected opportunity or expense arises
  • They know how much they need to save up for a healthy business runway and for seasonal changes and challenging times. More importantly, they know how to save up for that runway
  • Knowing their numbers and using it to inform decisions – What products bring in the highest margin? What is the majority of the expenses of the small business? How and where can they reduce expenses or increase investments?  

5. Resourceful

Being resourceful means being able to find quick and creative ways to solve a problem. Resourcefulness is so important that even Harvard Business Review mentioned that being resourceful is now a necessary skills for today’s leaders

In my article about 8 best marketing strategies for small business, I mentioned that in 99.99% of cases, a small business has limited resources. With limited resources, small businesses are in a constant state of deprivation. As a result, small businesses need to achieve more for less in order to be successful. In other words, they need to solve problems creatively.

One example of resourcefulness through my personal experience is when my team and I executed one of our guerilla marketing campaigns last year

We used a creative method to send out our promotional messages right smack to where our target audiences are. Best of all, we did it at a fraction of the cost of normal advertising methods

When you solve problems creatively and think out of the box, you open up your mind and redefine possibilities and learn to look at a problem from different angles. When you approach resourcefulness in this manner, it might lead to an entirely new revenue stream, a new product, or even changing how an entire industry traditionally works

6. Positive

Like I mentioned earlier, small business owners face challenges on a daily basis. Not only that, they are also more likely to be in stressful situations and have heavier responsibilities compared to the average joe.

In the context of a small business, positivity is looking at the bright side of things and celebrating achievements rather than things that aren’t working. It also means not complaining

Successful small business owners understand that there are a lot of things in their businesses that they can’t control. However, they know that they are in control of how they interpret and react to the things that happen to them. They choose to learn from these experiences and not mourn over failures. 

By adopting a positive outlook, successful small business owners are happier and less stressed. Indirectly, this enhances their productivity and helps them focus on solutions instead of problems. On top of that, their positivity tends to have a good influence on the people around them too

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it

— Charles R. Swindoll

7. Strategic Thinking

The most successful small business owners I know are strategic thinkers.

Strategic thinkers have the ability to look at the bigger picture by connecting the dots, and not fixate too much on the small details. 

They are also observant of their market and have a deep understanding of internal and external factors surrounding their businesses. As a result, they are able to make accurate predictions of market trends and consumer behaviors and prepare for them

Lastly, they regularly challenge norms and decisions to see if there are better ways of doing things, including that of their own. On top of that, they are also very reflective of the things they do and of their own decisions so that they can improve

These are all very important because it allows small businesses to:

  • Organise their resources efficiently to work towards the goal of the business
  • Clearly communicate and define the roles of staffs in achieving business goals
  • Be more agile and better prepared to face business challenges and market changes

8. Resilience, Perseverance and Grit

No matter how you distinguish between these 3 words, I’ve lumped them all under 1 trait. Reason being, at the end, it all boils down to 1 thing – the ability to power through challenges and keep moving forward

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going . Successful small business owners are resilient people who will step up their efforts and work even harder when they meet challenges. They don’t just give up on the first, second, or third hurdle. They perfect their craft and knowledge day in day out, and put them in practice in adverse situations

9. Open mindedness

Many of us are brought up to believe in a certain set of values. Through time, many of us fixate into a certain way of doing things and processing thoughts too. In addition, we also tend to surround ourselves with people who share the same values and beliefs.

Although having strong beliefs and a sense of familiarity in the things we do is good. too much of it might hinder our ability to grow

Successful business owners have an open mind, they are willing to try new things and consider new feedback on the way they have always done things. As a result, they are always learning and utilising their knowledge for the betterment of themselves and their businesses

10. Action taker

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do

— C.G. Jung

Successful business owners are action takers. They are willing to get their hands dirty and do the hard work of building the foundation of a successful business or finding a solution to a problem

They move quickly and decisively when they see an opportunity or when they know something needs to be done

When they face a challenge, it doesn’t matter if they don’t know the answer. What matters is that they are willing to put in the time and effort to get the answer they are looking for. 

They are actions takers. They are problem solvers

If you know any small business owners with the following traits, share this article with them and send them some encouragement!

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