Not every successful entrepreneur wants above all to make money. But they do share certain traits. Read on if you want to break out on your own.

successful entrepreneur

“In the journey of an entrepreneur, the most important thing is self-belief and the ability to convert that belief into reality.” — Mukesh Ambani, Indian entrepreneur

When you hear or read the word “entrepreneur,” you may immediately think of high-profile, global business people such as Oprah Winfrey in the United States, Richard Branson in the UK, Jack Ma in China or Aliko Dangote in Nigeria.

Each one of these entrepreneurs has focused on innovation and individual responsibility, often incurring great financial risk for even greater financial rewards.

However, money is not always the prime motivator, even for them.

“I’ve run a very successful business, and I think I can also run a very successful team,” said Nigerian entrepreneur Dangote. “I always make sure I hire people smarter than me.… I’m not in it for the money. No, no. I like to run a business that’s successful.”

Not every successful entrepreneur is focused mainly on money.

There are many ways of defining success for these and other entrepreneurs who have consciously chosen not to pursue more conventional “bureaucratic” or “hierarchical” careers, starting at the bottom rung of the ladder within an organization and gradually working their way upwards, attaining ever-increasing positions of power, responsibility and salary.

For example, there are now many social entrepreneurs or innovators who focus on societal, cultural or environmental issues rather than becoming a billionaire before they are 40 years old.

One prominent example is Bangladesh’s Muhammad Yunus, who founded the Grameen Bank to pioneer micro-finance for small, women-owned businesses in the Global South as women become a bigger part of the entrepreneurial pool around the world.

In fact, over half of adult women in Angola are now entrepreneurs, according to a recent survey. Most of these women entrepreneurs in Angola and other lower income countries are “necessity-driven” rather than “innovation-driven,” according to the survey.

“Some women entrepreneurs are natural born leaders,” said Chantal Munanayire, who is the Rwanda In-Country Facilitator of the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS program of the U.S.-based Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women.

“Some see a market opportunity and build a business to make money. And some have lost their job, have no leadership experience and need to learn the skills from the beginning,” Munanayire said

‘9+3 Cs Model’

Whatever the motivation and focus of an entrepreneur, successful ones tend to possess certain internal qualities: vision, integrity, self-confidence, passion, drive, curiosity, tolerance for risk and a great deal of personal stamina, patience and perseverance.

These qualities all feed into this “9+3 Cs Model”:

  1. Courage — Going for it on your own is never easy. What inner strength and resolve do you have to be a successful entrepreneur? What perils are you willing to face down?
  2. Creativity — What service or product are you aiming to provide that no one else is doing or doing as well? What niche or gap are you aiming to fill?
  3. Clarity — Why are you doing this? What is your purpose? What are your short- and longer-term goals? What do you want to achieve? How will you achieve it?
  4. Competence — Are you (and your team) qualified and able to produce and deliver whatever product or service you want to offer the world?
  5. Confidence — How much faith and trust do you have in yourself, your team and your product or service? How can you best express this to the world in an authentic and convincing way?
  6. Character — Will your external counterparts trust you to say and do what you promise in a professional, ethical and accountable way?
  7. Connections — Whom do you know and how well do you know them? Can you trust them? How far?
  8. Client Focus — Whom are you serving? How? What do they say that they want? What do they really need? How are you best placed to provide this for them?
  9. Communication — How will you communicate consistently and clearly with clients, funders, collaborators, etc.?

‘Do it and don’t worry about the money.’

The first three Cs in this model will help true entrepreneurs to confirm and concretize their own commitment. The second three Cs will help establish credibility with potential clients, funders, collaborators, etc. And the last three Cs will hopefully result in lots of rewarding contracts (however you define “rewarding”)!

I have developed this “9+3 Cs Model” during more than 30 years of coaching and mentoring new and experienced entrepreneurs around the world and setting up four small businesses of my own in my native UK, my long-term home in Italy, my adopted country of the United States and my current residence here in Rwanda.

Over that time, I have learned two additional elements that are key to success as an entrepreneur:

  1. As a Palestinian mentor in Zurich told me 40 years ago: “If everything else is right, do it and don’t worry about the money. That will come in good time.”
  2. This aphorism: “It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.”

So saddle up and get ready to enjoy a wild ride!

(For a News Decoder podcast on entrepreneurship, click here.)

Infographic: Where Female Entrepreneurs Are Most & Least Common | Statista

Questions to consider:

  1. What is entrepreneurship and what can motivate an entrepreneur?
  2. What would motivate you to become an entrepreneur?
  3. What might success look like for you?

Jeremy Solomons is a global leadership coach and facilitator based in Kigali, Rwanda, where he has written regular “Leading Rwanda” and "Letter from Kigali" columns for the New Times newspaper. In the past, he was a Reuters financial reporter in Hong Kong and New York City and then a foreign correspondent in Frankfurt. He was also a farmer in Israel; factory worker and teacher in France; banker in England and Switzerland; and entrepreneur in Italy.

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