Beware of scams

We are aware of scams coming from email and social media where people try to impersonate us. We will never ask you for money or your bank details. Learn more about what to look out for and how to protect yourself.

6 traits of successful start-up business owners

Starting a business is hugely challenging and demands a certain set of characteristics. To find out what it takes to be successful, read these insights from some current entrepreneurs.

Dreaming about starting your own business, but worried that you don’t have what it takes? Start Up Loans talked to business owners about the traits that could help your start-up succeed.

Starting a business can be daunting. Juggling roles, developing new skills and coping with changing markets all require dedication, patience, sacrifice and time. Your ability to persevere, remain motivated and be flexible in the face of the unexpected can help you navigate those crucial early stages of your start-up.

Along with a sound business plan and a well-researched market, many new business owners share traits that help them rise to the challenge of launching a start-up. According to a study published in the International Journal of Business and Social Science, start-ups, business owners and people who want to be their own boss tend to be self-confident, proactive and competitive.

Outside of academic research, real-world traits such as determination, passion, flexibility, vision and resilience go a long way to helping achieve start-up goals. Here are six personality traits that can help you succeed with your start-up according to business owners.


Want to learn more about what it takes to be a leader?

Discover the personal aspects involved in both good and bad leadership with our free Leadership and followship course. As part of our Learn with Start Up Loans partnership with the Open University, our online course is free to join, delivered by experts and includes a free statement of participation on completion.


1. Passion

Starting a business is hard work. The hours can be long and the rewards small when you’re starting out. You may need to make sacrifices – financially, mentally and emotionally – to build a flourishing business. Successful start-up owners tend to have a genuine passion for their business or the problem it is solving. Passion can be a tremendous energiser. It can help fuel you through the long hours because you’re on a mission to make life better for customers.

“You need to really care about your business,” says Susan Bonnar, founder of The British Craft House in Lee-on-the-Solent. “There needs to be this emotional connection and wanting to solve a genuine need. You need to be immersed in the issue and helping other people who have the same problem, rather than simply selling a product.”

Jane Crane, founder of Your Tribe in Newcastle, agrees. “Starting a business starts inside of you. Get happy and stay happy. You’ll need to work hard, too, often 12-hour days. Even if things don’t work out then it won’t seem quite so bad because you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s fine, I’m happy’.


Jane Crane, founder of Your Tribe

Jane Crane, founder of Your Tribe


2. Determination

Determination. Energy. Enterprise. Drive. Motivation. Call it what you like, this is the ability to dig deep to push your business forwards.

Passion and determination are not the same. You can be passionate about a hobby, but not have the determination to transform it into a business. Determination to succeed can mean that you’re constantly looking at how your business can improve. It can encourage you to meet your business goals – from managing costs to delivering a better service to customers.

“I’m quite competitive,” reveals Anthony Quinn, founder of The Pudding Pantry in Nottingham. “I hate losing. I guess that’s an important trait because you’re always looking at how to do better. I look at everything we do and ask ‘Hey, can we do it better?’. I saw another independent doing an afternoon tea box recently and their boxes are nicer than ours. So I’m on my phone straight away looking at how much these boxes cost and how can we improve on what we do.”


3. Resilience

Thick skin can be beneficial when starting a business. From unexpected setbacks to negative feedback, failures needn’t be the end of the road. Instead, view setbacks as an opportunity to learn and help your business emerge stronger. Resilience can help you feel optimistic about overcoming challenges.

“You’ve got to be ridiculously optimistic and resilient,” says Victoria Griffin, co-founder of Goji Hair in Cardiff. “The number one thing is resilience. I’ve had businesses before where the end of the month is coming, you’ve got staff to pay and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, God, I hope we have a good day on Saturday in the shop’. That’s uncomfortable. Be resilient and be optimistic.”

Margaret Morrison-Macleod, founder of The Divine Hag in Glasgow, agrees. “It can be very lonely setting up a business. I think you have to have a level of stoicism. You also need to be able to take on board the ‘ugly baby’ comments. You might love your business – it’s your ‘baby’ – but you need to listen to feedback and those ‘ugly baby’ comments to make your baby even better.”


4. Flexibility

Start-up owners may have to juggle a number of roles. You may need to be a project manager, marketer, PR rep, customer service agent and bookkeeper all rolled into one. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial. You may even need to rip up business plans in the face of market challenges.

“You need to be adaptable so you’re able to change what you’re doing,” says Kate Collins, founder of My Outdoor Classroom CIC in Merseyside. “Don’t feel like you’ve got to do the same thing you’ve always done just because you’ve always done it. Evaluating what you’ve done and learning from it is really important.”

“Be realistic,” says Goji Hair’s Victoria, when it comes to taking on tasks. “If you haven’t got the skills yourself, get somebody in who can. Good communication is also pretty important.”


Victoria Griffin, co-founder of Goji Hair

Victoria Griffin, co-founder of Goji Hair


5. Vision

A clear vision of what you want to achieve can help. While it’s easy to get consumed by short-term challenges, having a clear vision can help you plan for future growth. Linking plans to goals and targets is vital for success. Set yourself a series of goals, from profit to customer sales. Use these as milestones that help you bring your vision to life.

“Have a clear vision about what your end target is,” advises Daniel Edwards, co-founder of D&K Accounting in Bawtry. “We always knew we wanted to support small business clients rather than have a large office in the city. You need drive and passion for what you do because this is pretty hard work.”


6. Approachability

Closing yourself off from the world as you launch a business isn’t a recipe for success, according to new business owners. Being approachable and open can help build a support network and encourage people to turn to your business.

“I think the biggest quality people can have is friendliness and approachability,” says Your Tribe’s Jane. “You can do all the planning in the world, you can be great with finance and all the rest of it. But if you’re not likeable, people aren’t going to want you to be successful; they’re not going to get behind you.”

D&K Accounting’s Daniel agrees: “I think you have to be personable. When you’re doing it for yourself, people have to like you to do business with you. If they don’t like you, they’ll find somebody else.”

Learn with Start Up Loans and help your business get off the ground

Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur. Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses include:

Plus free courses on finance and accounting, marketing, project management, management and leadership.

Disclaimer: While we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

Feeling inspired?