Personality characteristics of the most successful small business owners

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Michelle van Schouwen

Ever wondered if you have what it takes to own a small business, or if your personality is helping or hampering you with the company you already own? Not surprisingly, some personality types are truly geared to starting and growing a business, whereas others may present a handicap.

-Perhaps foremost is perseverance, grit, or whatever you want to call the dedication to see projects through and not give up easily. How many people do you know who have “sort of” started a new company only to let it shrivel once the going got tough?

-However, this perseverance shouldn’t bleed into unproductive stubbornness. Flexibility, as in the willingness to shift course and try new approaches, allows business owners to succeed through serious challenges.

-The best business owners are savvy risk-takers, willing to make the right daring steps but avoiding foolish leaps. Typically, they will carefully evaluate costs/benefits and downside/upside potential to mitigate big surprises.

-Being logical is critical to growing a business. Key is having the ability and patience to analyze regulations, market trends, competition, and the myriad of other potential opportunities and traps awaiting the company

-Also, being good with math, especially as it relates to business planning, budgeting, and accounting, allows successful business owners to better control the financials.

-Creativity, in the sense of being able to develop new ideas, is important especially for business owners who are attempting something different than the norm. Being able to conceptualize and envision new goals will bolster the chance of success.

-Being extroverted, or at the very least comfortable with dealing with everyone from customers to employees, is an important asset. (Introverts do build successful companies but may have to power through the tendency to step back from interactions. Better yet, some join classes or groups focusing on public speaking and networking and thus gain confidence.)

-Being too independent to work for someone else, and as a result continuously motivated to make a living as a company owner is very typical.

-Ambition and the drive to work (and work and work) is characteristic of most small business owners, even when they staff up and delegate responsibilities.

-Being mildly but not extremely trusting seems to be the right balance for many prospering owners. In other words, they don’t assume everyone is out to get them, but neither do they trust that each person with whom they deal with is honest or well-meaning. A healthy dose of skepticism is useful.

-Compartmentalization is also a big plus. Being able to continue working (or at least overseeing work) when ill, when family problems arise, or when other troubles come along, helps business owners keep their companies afloat through thick and thin.

-Small business owners probably tend to be less patient than the average person, mostly because they want to make things happen.

How much of this sounds like you? And where your personality doesn’t match the profile of the most successful business owners, where can you adapt or get help to optimize your success?


Michelle van Schouwen is principal of Q5 Analytics, providing advocacy and communications for climate change mitigation and adaptation. For 32 years, Michelle was president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company. In 2017, she sold vSA. Michelle is available for speaking engagements on topics including her work on climate crisis mitigation and Florida coastal water issues. She speaks to business and student groups about marketing launches and entrepreneurship and works with start-ups to support their development.


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