Business Lifecycle

Five qualities of successful small business owners

Small business owners share the traits that have helped them and their businesses thrive.

Published: January 20, 2014
Updated: February 01, 2017

In order to run a business well, a small business owner has to be many things, often all at once. But certain characteristics might prove more essential to success than others.  

Here are some qualities small business owners and entrepreneurs consider essential to running profitable businesses.

1. Proactive communication

Jessica Greenwalt, principal and founder of Pixelkeet, a San Francisco-based design firm, says great communication is the most important characteristic for a small business owner.

For her, that means communicating a lot and regularly. Starting out, Greenwalt lost clients because she failed to keep in touch. Now she spends the first hour of every morning responding to clients.

2. Impeccable organization

"The bigger the project, the more important it is to be organized," Greenwalt says. "Without a method to track the work, something is going to get lost or there will be some miscommunication."

Greenwalt has used various tools including Asana for task management, Zoho Books for invoicing, and Google calendar for scheduling.

3. Constant learning

A desire to learn can help you continually evolve. Reading books and other publications, growing your business network, and seeking mentors can all provide learning opportunities that you can take back to your business. In addition, looking at other companies' successes and failures can help you learn valuable business lessons.

4. Strategic planning

As a business owner, it's easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day operations. Unfortunately, when you do this, you're failing to create a strategic plan to achieving desired long-term results, says Vickie Austin, a business and career coach based in Wheaton, Ill. "You have to benchmark along the way," says Austin, who also founded CHOICES Worldwide. "Ask yourself, 'Am I doing the things that I need to in order to be where I want to be?'"

Certain tasks like writing a business plan involve laying out well-defined goals. Austin recommends getting feedback from fellow business owners or mentors – and building flexibility into long-term goals – to help ensure your strategy yields the desired results.

5. Language skills

"Now that people constantly write to clients via email and text, and that even the smallest businesses are expected to have websites with written content, grammar matters more than ever," says Ellen Jovin, a principal and co-founder of New York-based Syntaxis, a small business that teaches communication skills to business professionals. Print out important documents and read them aloud. That can reveal grammar mistakes along with other crucial writing issues involving tone, word choice, and structure.

Starting and operating a business looks different for every small business owner, but these five skills – along with passion and dedication – are critical to long-term prosperity.

"The entrepreneurial life has ups and downs," Jovin says. "Caring about what you pursue will help you persist and succeed even when the winds are blowing hard against you."

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