What Is the Most Important Quality an Entrepreneur Should Possess?

Starting your own businesses a life-changing decision — one that’s full of great potential risk and great potential reward. Sure, entrepreneurs sacrifice their personal savings and personal lives in pursuit of big business dreams, but isn’t that a small price to pay for the chance of becoming the next Steve Jobs?

So what compels them to make that proverbial leap of faith? And more importantly, what qualities offer the best chance of success?

Like many of the questions we pose to our Board of Directors, there’s no one right answer to this one. Let’s face it, a big part of success in business is luck, opportunity, and being able to identify where and when the two overlap. But with decades of experience and billions of dollars under their collective belts, we think this unique group has a pretty good idea.

JJ Ramberg

Co-Founder, GoodSearch.com and Host, MSNBC’s Your Business

“My mother was a very successful entrepreneur, and her favorite book, which she gave my three siblings and me when we were younger, was The Little Engine That Could. To me, and her, the most important quality an entrepreneur can have is an “I think I can…” attitude. There are, without a doubt, going to be times as you build and grow your business that you’re going to face enormous challenges — and you have to believe that you can surmount them. Once you feel like you can do it, you need to sit down and be very practical about figuring out how.”

Rieva Lesonsky

CEO, GrowBiz Media

“The ability to go without a good night’s sleep for days on end. I’m just kidding about that — barely. I think entrepreneurs need to be optimists. You hear ‘no thanks’ a lot when running your own business. Or you lose a good client or account. Successful entrepreneurs possess the ability to get past disappointment or (temporary) defeat. Yes, bad things are going to happen. And you have the right to mourn when they do. But you have to bounce back almost immediately (I tell people they can be depressed or angry for three days at the most, and then it’s time to move on. It’s all too easy to get sucked into negativity, and then it’s so much more difficult to find the ‘sunny side of the street’ again.

“Positive people are more apt to take the risks necessary to be successful business owners. Pessimists are often too scared of the negative consequences to take the needed risks in the first place.”

Eric Ryan

Co-Founder and Chief Brand Architect, Method

“Unwavering persistence. Trying to get a business off the ground requires the ability to overcome a crazy number of hurdles, roadblocks and the occasional person telling you that your nuts. Its a cliche for good reason — sheer persistence is most commonly the difference between the successful and failed entrepreneur. So keep at it!”

Dylan Lauren

Founder and CEO, Dylan’s Candy Bar

“The most important quality is determination. Running a business isn’t a piece of cake, things don’t always go as planned, but determination will often help in any situation.”

Julie Jumonville

Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, UpSpring Baby

“Honesty and authenticity!”

Tate Chalk

Founder and CEO, Nfinity

“I feel the quality that an entrepreneur could not live without is optimism. Not just the brand of positive thinking that says things will be “fine,” but an innate belief that no matter what happens, everything will work out like it should. Relentlessly optimistic.”

Elizabeth Busch, Anne Frey-Mott and Beckie Jankiewicz

Co-Founders, The Event Studio

“Focus, persistence and choosing the best partners will make you successful. At the end of the day, though, you need to believe in and love the service or business you provide — and others will too.”

Tom Szaky

Founder, TerraCycle

“The ability, not desire, to take calculated risk and to be level headed about the outcome. I’m a big fan of objectivity when making decisions. In my line of work, emotional decision-making typically backfires.”

Gary Whitehill

Founder, The Relentless Foundation and New York Entrepreneur Week

“Unrelenting drive toward achieving their goal.”

Clint Greenleaf

Founder and CEO, Greenleaf Book Group

“It’s hard to pick just one. I’ll say initiative is critical — you have to get off your butt before you do anything. Shortly after you start, persistence is required because you’ll fail. Once you start to make it, you’ll need judgment to know what to do and what to stop doing.”

Rob Adams

Director, Texas Venture Labs at the University of Texas

“The completely bipolar traits of the ruthless execution of a plan and the intelligence to change the plan when the market dictates.”

Bob Parsons

Founder and CEO, The Go Daddy Group

“Passion — plain and simple.”

Phil Town

Investor and Author of Rule #1 and Payback Time

“Here it is: The ability to hire properly so that you only do what only you can do.”

Steve Strauss

Columnist and Author of The Small Business Bible

“Aside from creativity and smarts, entrepreneurs must possess all sorts of other, somewhat more unusual traits: The ability to live with uncertainly, plenty of hubris, the willingness to work extra hard, self-direction and the willingness and ability to change course quickly. All of that said, I think No. 1 on the list is the willingness to take a risk. Most people are, for plenty of good reasons, risk-averse. Entrepreneurs are too, except where others see risk and let that be the end of the story, entrepreneurs see the risk, work to minimize it, then take it on, and then move forward. Risk is the juice.”