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What makes a successful entrepreneur?

On a day in which entrepreneurs are honoured and celebrated in the USA, Simon Parkinson, managing partner at HPA considers what the key characteristics of a successful entrepreneur are:

The word entrepreneur was coined (in France - despite what George W allegedly claimed) by Jean-Baptiste Say and is derived form the French "entreprendre" - to undertake.   Say was a follower of Adam Smith the father of Free Market Economic theory, but as a successful businessman himself sought to shine a bright light on the role of people such as himself in finding opportunities for improvement and thereby maintaining a dynamic healthy marketplace.

Lack of satisfaction with the status quo and a willingness to do something about it - to become an active agent of change - is what fundamentally defines an entrepreneur.

Now as a character trait, I think that questioning the status quo, and trying to do things better is something we should all strive for in every aspect of our lives, but will it make us all successful entrepreneurs on its own?

The word 'entrepreneur' has in itself become almost a byword for success. But is this really true? Don't we just hear about the successful entrepreneurs, the Dragons, The Dysons and the Instagram billionaires? How often have you seen the words serial entrepreneur attached to someone's bio and wondered how many of those businesses actually make any money?

So on National Entrepreneurs Day many will be wondering, are all entrepreneurs successful? The short answer is that some entrepreneurs are more successful than others and some not at all, but respect should be given to all for having the balls to try.

Here at HPA, the majority of our 4,000 plus customers have been, like ourselves, owner managed businesses.  We've seen many entrepreneurs first hand and we like to think we've made a reasonable fist of it ourselves over the last 33 years. In fact it was my father, Arthur Parkinson, who first established the company back in 1985. He had an instrumental role to play in recognising ISO 9001 standard could be successfully applied to businesses of all sizes. Since then the company has developed a unique approach to the installation of Management Systems, an approach which has been rolled out to a whole range of international industry standards.

So what is it about successful entrepreneurs that sets them apart from the rest? In addition to a restless spirit and a desire to solve problems? If I could sum this up in one sentence it would be "Being prepared to fail - but planning not to."

The most successful entrepreneurs I've worked with, including some with 8 figure personal fortunes borne out of their entrepreneurship, all have a considered attitude to risk, do their homework and invest in people, systems and processes to deliver their dynamic vision.

A truly successful entrepreneur balances both creativity and discipline and hits the sweet spot. It's not easy and all these years later, we are still learning! 


About the author

Simon Parkinson

Simon Parkinson is Managing Partner of HPA and has over 20 years experience of helping companies achieve ISO management system certification.

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