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Secret Trait of Every Successful Entrepreneur

Conrad Hilton lost his hotel business during the Great Depression but was able to buy it back and build one of the world's most successful corporations. What's his secret?
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One of the qualities that is most helpful in an aspiring entrepreneur is optimism.  Without it you would be foolish to attempt risk. Consider those before us who against the greatest odds managed to start and build successful businesses. What was their secret?

Conrad Hilton and I went to the same high school, N.M.M.I. He started his hotel business prior to the Great Depression and as a result found himself over extended when the depression hit. He lost his hotels but was retained as manager. By 1946 he had bought them back and formed Hilton Hotel Corporation. He was an optimist.

There is an old saying in the Army, "There's no atheist in a foxhole." That's easy to figure out and pretty self-explanatory. I'll give you a new one, "There is no pessimist in a successful start-up or turnaround."

How many people do you know that have a great idea for a business, talk about it but never do anything about it? What stops them? Is it the risk of failure? Based on my years in business I would say it isn't the risk of failure but a lack of optimism for success. Now you may think I'm splitting hairs but let me make this distinction.

You have to be a realist to recognize whether something has the potential to be a success or not. Does the product, goods or services offered in my new venture have value? Can I take this model to market and create enough distinction that differentiates me from the competition? Or if its something completely new, is there a market for it? If you are being realistic, and the answer is yes, then you have to ask yourself am I going to put myself out there? Now comes the optimism. According to Webster, the definition of optimism is an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome. By looking at that definition, I cannot see how anyone could start a business or attempt a turnaround without being optimistic!

I have heard from many readers that they want to start their own business but just aren't ready. For many that may be true. For those that fit this description, ask yourself will you ever be ready? There probably will be no better time than right now to start one. I say this because the macro aspects of the market have hit the bottom and are coming back up. Not because the government is doing anything but because business people are. The ability to rebuild the economy rests with you and me. Our voice, optimism and ultimately the power of small business will adapt and overcome.

The cost of money is lower now than before. With interest rates so low, the risk reward parameters have shifted. Based on today's rates; something slightly better than break even will return more money than conventional savings, money market or CD rates.

So, what are you waiting for?

Last updated: May 10, 2012

GLEN BLICKENSTAFF | Columnist | CEO of The Iron Door company

Glen Blickenstaff is the CEO of The Iron Door company, which makes high-end doors and windows. Glen has a track record of turning around and managing retail, building and financial companies.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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