What It Takes To Become A Successful Entrepreneur

Now to Next with Gino Wickman Author of Entrepreneurial Leap

Entrepreneurship seems to be the end-all and be-all these days. Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur. But many people should never step onto that path as Gino Wickman explains in his new book, Entrepreneurial Leap, and in our recent conversation. A self-described teach-at-heart, Gino’s passion is helping people understand what it takes to become a “true” entrepreneur and determine whether they have what it takes or not before they take the leap. He defines what a true entrepreneur is and elaborates on six essential traits successful entrepreneurs have in common.

Gino joined me on my Now to Next podcast to discuss his newest book and to share what he has learned through his real-life experience which led him to create the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®). He has personally delivered more than 1,900 full-day sessions for more than 135 companies, helping them implement EOS. He is also the founder of EOS Worldwide, an organization that helps thousands of businesses implement EOS with the aid of an international team of more than 450 professional and certified EOS Implementers.

Gino believes that entrepreneurs are born and that the traits they exhibit cannot be taught. Gino didn’t discover his own talent for entrepreneurship until his late 20s. When he finally tapped into his true talent nothing could stop him.

Entrepreneurs Are Born Not Taught

Gino told me that he spent his youth being mislabeled as a derelict, when in fact he had all the essential traits of a true entrepreneur. As Gino told me, he discovered that every successful entrepreneur possesses all six of these traits and that they are part of one’s DNA. They are not traits that can be taught. You either have them or you don’t. When he teaches, Gino knows he breaks some hearts when he elaborates on the traits and asks his students to look back over their entire lives to see if they’ve exhibited these inherent traits. He encourages honesty in their assessment because if they don’t have those traits, they “should not start a business with people.”

According to Gino, these traits are identifiable in Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, Walt Disney, and all true entrepreneurs. His book, Entrepreneurial Leap, is presented in three parts, the first of which is to confirm if one possesses these traits or not. In the second part, he gives readers a glimpse of what the life of a true entrepreneur is like. And in the third part, the path, he gets very specific, preparing readers for everything that’s about to happen.

The Six Essential Traits Of Total Entrepreneurs

If as you look back on your life you can honestly say you have always exhibited the following traits, you are true entrepreneurial material: You’re a visionary, you’re passionate, a problem-solver, you’re driven, you’re a risk-taker, and you are responsible.

Then, I asked Gino to define what he means by “total entrepreneur.” He told me that a total entrepreneur has a passion to bring a product or service to the world and build an organization around that product or service. He explained that a true entrepreneur is very different than a sole proprietor or a one-person show or business. The people he mentioned earlier are clearly examples, to which we can add Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and many others.

Gino’s definition was helpful for me because I always assumed that many of the people I worked with, particularly in the film business were entrepreneurs. But when I heard Gino’s definition, I realized most were sole proprietors or independent contract workers. My perception of entrepreneurship has definitely changed in light of our conversation.

Entrepreneurs And College Degrees

I’m always very curious about the role education plays in success so I asked Gino if he went to college and if he has a degree. He said he couldn’t wait to get to work and start making money and that he knew college was not for him. He admitted to being OCD, dyslexic, and ADHD which was part of the reason he was mislabeled in his early years.

Gino said that 46% of all business owners do not have degrees and that it’s a personal choice you make. Many of the entrepreneurs Gino worked with when he was just starting out had college degrees and some had MBAs. And, later when interviewing people for his books, when he asked entrepreneurs if they knew what they know now would they go back to college, they all said “yes.” He went on to explain they wouldn’t go back for what they learned in classrooms, but for the relationships they build and for the great practice ground college provides for starting businesses.

Gino Expounds On The Six Essential Entrepreneurial Traits

I found it fascinating to learn from Gino that only 4% of the population has these entrepreneurial traits. As Gino pointed out though, entrepreneurship is not the end-all/be-all. It’s just one option. He went on to expound on the six common traits that define an entrepreneur from birth.

Visionary: You have a lot of ideas…you can connect the dots. You see the world a little differently than most people do. You just have a lot of ideas, not necessarily ground-breaking ideas, but your mind is always working.

Passionate: You have an intense passion for your thing…there is this THING that an entrepreneur is obsessed with. Often that passion is for something that most people believe is not possible to achieve. But you are obsessed and will not be stopped.

Problem solver: You see solutions where others see problems. Do you lean in and get excited when you see a problem…do you light up? If so, you have the wiring, the genetic code of an entrepreneur. You don’t have to be a quick problem solver either. Sometimes, Gino said he needs days to solve a problem. If you have this trait, the process of solving big, creative problems lights you up.

Driven: This often gets confused with passionate, which is very different. By driven, Gino means you have an internal sense of urgency, and competitiveness, you want to be successful, and you love working hard. Gino said, “we tend to outwork everyone else.”

Risk-taker: Being a true risk-taker doesn’t just mean you’re willing to take the risk to start your business. It involves the 1000 tough decisions you’ll make every day for the next 10 years. If, when you look at your history and actions, you see that when it’s time to make a tough decision you do it and you follow through. Sometimes you’ll have to risk spending money when you have very little, or you may have to fire the best person on your team. There are big-time risks, all of which at the end of the day are calculated risks. Ask yourself, when faced with making tough decisions do you make the decision and go instead of being paralyzed.

Responsible: Being responsible, said Gino, is to blame no one. He explained that he believes there are two kinds of people: those who take responsibility and those who don’t. The responsible person takes full responsibility. According to Gino, this is a genetic trait, it is nature over nurture. Gino also considers both ends of the spectrum as a psychological disorder, meaning those who take too much responsibility as well as those who take no responsibility.

Realize You’re Different

As we were wrapping up, Gino encouraged those who exhibit the entrepreneurial traits described to realize that they are different. He also shared some of the challenging characteristics entrepreneurs have such as they are easily bored, they lose focus, many are not great with money and they tend to have addictive personality traits. Gino’s objective is to help entrepreneurs get through the start-up phase of business and avoid at least half of the mistakes most people make when launching a business.

Gino shared so many insights that anyone considering starting a business would benefit from hearing. To catch the full interview, you can listen to it on your favorite podcast listening platform. And of course, you can always reach out to me directly with any questions you might have!