The traits of a successful small business owner include their skills and talents, their character, their attitude, their passion, and their dedication to learning and adhering to key business principles. Without these traits, you won’t succeed. No one can.

You can have a ton of passion for a business or industry, but you must have skills and aptitude as well. What are your natural God-given talents that you’ve enhanced through education, experience and by building skills? The reality is we aren’t always good at what we are passionate about and vice versa. The trick is to find a combination of both, and then to find the under-served market that you can uniquely provide value to.

We talk about character as a trait necessary to starting a small business. Character isn’t just honesty, but also the patience to oversee a startup. It requires confidence, courage and a calm, assertive manner to avoid too much stress and frustration.

A small business owner must commit to being a learner for life to be successful. Ongoing study of marketing, new technologies, HR basics, communication and accounting are required to stay proficient. This includes learning and updating software skills as well!

Everyone that you love and interact with socially is going to be impacted by your decision to start a new business. When planned well, your new business should not always be all-consuming, but in the beginning (the first year, minimum) you can absolutely anticipate more stress and less time.

Your spouse is the person who is likely to be the most impacted by your startup. It can be a financial and emotional strain. You have to set expectations in advance, have extra support on hand for child care and transportation, and address fears and concerns up front about how the two of you will spend time together.

Relationships do fail because of the strains, both emotional and financial, of starting a new business. Two things help deter this: open communication and setting personal boundaries about how much and when you are willing to work. Though the business will keep you busy, you must maintain some semblance of a personal life.

You must watch your spending habits, including in your personal life. Starting a new business requires a lot of cash and can be difficult to do without getting into financial trouble. Personal spending will have to slow or you could put a strain on the new business.

Watching spending habits involves your spouse or partner too. You must help them understand the difference between, and accessibility of, business accounts versus personal. People often manage their business accounts like they do their personal-poorly. Have a plan for this in advance to prevent problems down the road.

The traits of a successful small business owner are not often directly discussed, and while some can be learned, others are more related to temperament.  An awareness of these traits will help ensure that you make the best out of each.

Remember, you WILL have a personal life, but your small business is going to be a large part of it. Keep family as involved as they should or can be. A spouse or life partner is often the biggest part of an owner’s success! It was true for me.


by Steven Schlagel – December 3, 2009