Hundreds of books have been written on what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Those looking to start their own business often ponder this very question: Do I have what it takes to be successful? How do I know for sure? As it turns out, entrepreneurs tend to share a few characteristics, even if each has his or her own individual flare. What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? First, it means being a risk-taker. It means being willing to do whatever is necessary to succeed (within the law, naturally). It means having a laser-like focus on success, regardless of market indicators, capital constraints or other hurdles. So, what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? Here are a few top tips.

Eternal Optimism

One quintessential trait of an entrepreneur is the unfailing belief that they will succeed. We've all heard the statistic that about half of all startups fail in the first four years of business. In Canada, the outlook is a little better; according to government statistics, 63 per cent new firms survive five years and 43 per cent make it to the 10-year mark. Even so, the odds aren't great, which means anyone who takes the plunge has to believe they have a chance to beat them.


For entrepreneurs, business is not just business. It’s personal. Successful business startups have leaders who are driven by ambitious goals, whether it be personal gain, the bettering of a community or society, or improving the efficiency of an industrial process. It’s not simply about putting an idea forward and hoping for the best; the best business owners are all-in, putting it on all on the line every day. Passion is what propels the willpower required to keep an idea - and a new company - afloat.

High Risk Tolerance

An entrepreneur isn’t concerned with evaluating the downside risk of an investment. They will risk everything to give their company a fighting chance – and that often means placing their very livelihood on the line. Most entrepreneurs are giving up the comfort of a steady paycheque to jump into the unknown. But while the assumption has often been that those who choose entrepreneurship are naturally risk-tolerant, more recent research suggests that risk-tolerance is actually a skill that entrepreneurs learn. In other words, by placing themselves in risky situations, they become better at tolerating risk. For would-be entrepreneurs who aren't sure they have a stomach for risk, it's something worth thinking about.


Entrepreneurs always want to be moving ahead. If they are going to fail, they want to do so quickly so they can move onto their next idea. This means pushing ahead to find a solution, despite being told there isn't one, and working hard to see something through to the end – even if that end is ultimately failure. By definition, entrepreneurs will face more challenges and hurdles than those employed in traditional jobs. Tenacity may not ensure success, but success is impossible without it.


The most balanced entrepreneurs know when they need help and are able to recognize their own limitations. Startup companies often begin with little or no staff, leaving the founder to play every role within the company. But, once the workload becomes too much, they need to know when to reach out. This could mean hiring an accountant, an HR person, or hiring someone who can improve the company’s operations. If you’re truly an entrepreneur, you are stubborn enough to push forward when everyone warns against it. But sometimes knowing when to give in is just as important – unpleasant as it may be.

Cautious Optimism in Alberta

A survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that the confidence of Alberta's small business owners had plunged at the end of 2018, although it rebounded slightly in February. The decline has been widely attributed to a shift in global energy markets and decline in the oil and gas sector. Even so, small businesses make up a huge chunk of the Alberta economy, contributing more GDP per capita that small businesses in other provinces, according to the Alberta government. Times may be tough in some sectors, but Alberta's entrepreneurs are still throwing their passion, tenacity and smarts behind their businesses, contributing to the diversity and vibrancy of the Alberta business community.