Without these five traits, you’re going to struggle to succeed as a founder, Vaynerchuk warns.
If you want to become an entrepreneur, where do you start?
It’s a sensible enough question to consider, but when a curious user asked essentially this of the community on question-and-answer site Quora, VaynerMedia founder Gary Vaynerchuk offered an unexpected answer. Don’t ask, “Where should I start?” he replied. Instead ask yourself, “Should I start at all?”
Vaynerchuk leaned on a sports metaphor to deliver some tough love to wantpreneneurs — if you’re five-foot-two and clumsy, you’re unlikely to make it to the NBA, no matter how hard you work. And likewise, if you lack certain proclivities and strengths, no amount of striving will turn you into a successful startup founder.
“So little thought is given to that fact that just like the top athletes in the world, entrepreneurs who build successful businesses come from a certain breed. They have an entrepreneurial DNA that allowed them to hone in on their business skills in the first place,” he insists.
So what are these essential traits for entrepreneurship — this “entrepreneurial DNA” — that no amount of hard work and determination can replace? Vaynerchuk outlines five in the lengthy answer:
1. Salesmanship. The ability to sell something is absolutely necessary to knowing how to run a business at any stage. Whether you’re starting out on the floor like I did, selling a physical product, or you’re the CEO of an agency placing talented employees, you need to know how to make a sale.
2. A chip on your shoulder. Yes, I’m serious. And that can come in two forms. Either you were born with nothing, zero, and you’re just hungrier than the average human. Or, it’s the reverse: You born into a lot of wealth and opportunity and you want to prove that you don’t need it, and can do it on your own. In either case, some kind of chip can push you a long way, especially for the amount of hours and energy you’ll need to put into your business.
3. An independent spirit. Being an entrepreneur means you rely on yourself and no one else. At the end of the day, you need to be 100 percent comfortable with making the final call, being able to trust yourself and your intuition.
4. Understanding consumers and consumer attention. Zuckerberg is a fantastic example of someone who truly understands and trades consumer attention. He got it with his product: Facebook. He held onto it by identifying and acquiring Instagram. And he saw it with Snapchat too, but that deal didn’t pan out. In any case, the lesson is that not only knowing where the consumers are, but also where they are going, is crucial.
5. Patience. It can be a slow and lonely climb to the top. If patience is a trait you don’t currently possess, but you want to play in this world, I recommend developing it as much as you possibly can.
Of course, Vaynerchuk is far from the only expert who has argued that certain talents or mindsets are a prerequisite for success, but he’s probably blunter than most in discouraging those who don’t naturally excel in these areas from pursuing their startup dreams.