Smart entrepreneurs are always on the hunt for ways to grow their businesses. That's one of the reasons why they'll try to pick the brains of successful business owners. They want to learn the success secrets, or the one or two magic tactics that will make all the positive difference in their results.

Over the past two years, I did a lot of that brain picking for you while interviewing 147 different entrepreneurs. One of the key things I wanted to tease out were their keys to success.

As you might imagine, the answers varied widely across the board. But there were clear standouts that popped up over and over again.

The cool thing is that anybody, no matter their experience level can adapt and embody these keys. Let's look at the top three.

1. Persistence.

As you build your business, there will be a lot of no's. Very rarely is your journey to success a straight line trending upward.

There are lot's of false starts. Detours. And even devastating losses. But the key to coming out ahead in spite of all the bumps and bruises is to persist.

Katie Krimitsos, host of the Biz Women Rock podcast noted that you have to have the attitude that "there's no other option but to succeed."

Webinar expert Jon Schumacher took it a step further and described it this way:

"You've got to want it bad enough, that when the mud slings on you, then you just wash it off and go again."

There is a degree of nuance associated with this skill. You've got to take the time to tap into your gut and trust your instincts.

Peter Ivey of the Reggae Chefs mentioned that is what helps him know "when to keep knocking, and when to go and build your own door."

2. Surround yourself with smart people.

Just about every entrepreneur I spoke to was adamant about the notion that you will not succeed if you take your journey alone.

You will go much farther, much faster when you have the right people by your side. Now which people were key varied based upon the business owner.

For many including Kristen Russell, CEO of Fall River Employee Benefits, that meant hiring a business coach. She hired one when she was first preparing to launch her business. She told me she didn't intend to work with him beyond her initial six-month commitment. But ten years later, and the two still meet twice monthly.

For international consultant Kimanzi Constable, having the right people meant having a mastermind group. He and a small group of close friends talked and strategized almost daily.

And for Josh Dorkin, founder of real-estate investing community Bigger Pockets, it was about hiring the right team. Specifically, Dorkin mentioned it was about bringing smart people on board who were passionate about the vision for the company.

3. Do the work.

The last key to success isn't very glamorous. But there is no avoiding it. You've go to take action.

Conscious Millionaire author JV Crum III, who's built several multi-million dollar businesses, was clear that the action you take needs to be constant and focused.

For Jessica Blanchard, a holistic yoga practitioner and founder of Stop Feeling Crappy, that means working daily on her craft to improve her core skills.

But that action in many instances is coupled with essential work that isn't directly related to your field. Many of the entrepreneurs talked about the importance of working hard on sales and marketing activities to help spread the word about their work.

I met Dr. Marc Smith, veterinarian and co-founder of PetTao, a holistic line of pet food, at a digital marketing conference. He told me he had to step outside his comfort zone to learn about content marketing if he wanted to expand his business beyond his local clients in Tennessee.

Once you figure out what the right work is that will help you grow, then it's all about action. Steph Gaudreau of Stupid Easy Paleo told me she spent years with her head down, creating a large body of content and showing up everyday to connect with and build her following on social media.

As you go about figuring out how to apply these success principles in your business, know that you'll have to spend some time exploring what the right balance is for you.

For instance, Daniel Chohfi, of Vitamina Publicitária in Brazil puts more attention on "doing the work" than building relationships. He's seen too many people spend all their time networking and not enough time taking the necessary actions needed to grow.

That's the beauty of being a business owner. You can follow the principles that have been proven to work, and adapt them to fit your specific needs, personality, and situation.