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5 Traits of People Who Build Lasting Companies

Adrenaline might get your idea off the ground initially, but it takes a lot more than that to stay in business.
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Over the last 13 years of writing about tech companies, I've picked up a few things about what it takes to start a company--and build one that lasts.

Often entrepreneurs initially are motivated by pure adrenaline and the insatiable desire to start something from nothing. The ones that last, however, are the founders with tenacious drive, among other qualities. Here are six traits I see again and again in successful entrepreneurs: 

1. They're incredibly persistent.

Entrepreneurs who go the distance are so persistent that it's almost painful. I don't mean they keep bugging the bank until they get a business loan and then they relax. I mean they are persistent by nature--they never stop being persistent and never even realize there's a different approach. These entrepreneurs don't really know any other way. They're like those wind-up toys. You turn the crank, set the toy on the floor, and it goes in one direction and doesn't veer from its course. That's persistence.

2. They don't take no for an answer.

Successful entrepreneurs deal well with rejection. They just don't accept no--it's almost like their ears have a built-in mechanism that refuses to hear the word. And it's more than just not giving up. My frame of reference for this is a writing assignment: I've always been okay with getting 100 rejections for an article idea. I just don't hear the no. I'm waiting for a yes.

3. They know how to turn situations to their advantage.

Here's a big one--maybe the biggest of all. You can have drive and learn how to deal with rejection, but if you don't know how to take advantage of opportunities, your company won't survive.

It's not the same as diversifying, although that helps. Diversifying is a business strategy that helps you deal with the occasional slumps and hiccups, but turning a situation to your advantage can help you find financing, market products--even save a company from failure.

4. They get things done.

Is it possible to start a company if you don't finish projects? Sure. Throw some money at an idea and it might catch on. But the really great companies are built by people who take an idea to its eventual conclusion. I don't think Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook with a vague idea of connecting some college kids and then went get back to eating Ramen. He had a vision to connect millions of people, and we can all agree he reached that goal successfully. You can have all of the other traits on this list and fail at starting a company if you are lazy and irresponsible about following through.

5. They pay attention to details.

Speaking of getting things done: there's one last quality of people who build successful companies, and it might seem like it doesn't belong here. I'm actually not a detail-oriented person--I hate doing my taxes and scheduling oil changes. But I've always been incredibly detailed when it comes to my job. I don't know any other way to operate. It's a survival trait. When you care about something, you pay attention to the details. You manage your email well. You keep a task list. You record invoices and track them. People who start companies are not winging it. They count every moment.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: May 26, 2014

JOHN BRANDON | Columnist

John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.

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



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