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Updated 16 Jan 2021

3 Traits of successful start-up founders

Focus on these three key areas and you’ll be able to run a slick business that positioned for growth – no matter how tough the markets become.

Nic Simmonds, 25 May 2018  Share  0 comments  Print

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There are as many recipes for start-up success as there are entrepreneurs out there – and although it would be a mistake to assume that one approach can be seamlessly adopted by organisations of all sizes and sectors, certain pillars of entrepreneurship are indispensable, no matter what business you’re in. 

1. Focus – with energy, consistency and intent 

It seems basic. After all, being able to focus mental energy is something we are trained to do from early childhood, isn’t it? And yet it’s common to meet entrepreneurs who seem to have lost all ability to do so – considering themselves failures as leaders unless they fill the role of captain, first mate and navigator simultaneously

There is something powerful about mono-tasking, and I’m not only talking about at the operational level. Focus is the essential sidekick to grit and determination, and with enough of it, not even distraction and defeat can slow you down. Instead they’ll spur you on to new levels of commitment during your most challenging times – just when you need it most. 

Related: The truth about being an entrepreneur

2. Maintain a positive temperament 

Nothing kills a business as quickly as resentment from its founder. Any entrepreneur knows that being your own boss isn’t quite the ticket to freedom that many believe it will be. You’ll have two jobs, not one. You’ll work longer and harder than you’ve ever worked before.

You’ll be bombarded with failures and overwhelming obstacles. Sounds tempting, right? Positivity and self confidence in your vision are skills that can be learned like any other, but always make sure your confidence is backed up by competence as well.

3. Strive to work smarter, not harder 

Good entrepreneurs are known to break their backs day in and day out, and any failure of their business must be their fault. 

Here’s the truth: if you have to sacrifice your nights, your health, your relationships and your happiness just to get your work done, you’re not doing it right. Successful entrepreneurship is about knowing what to devote energy to and when, as well as knowing when to take control and when to relinquish it.

Your staff is the lifeblood of your business, and they should be quality employees that free your time up to be the leader you need to be. As a business owner, it can be tempting to micromanage, but the old adage of “Work on your business, not in it” still rings true today. The big picture is 100% yours, but the daily grind shouldn’t be.

Entrepreneurs today face tough competition and truly terrifying odds of success. Being talented and hardworking can only take you so far in a game when every “yes” is preceded by a hundred “no’s.” It is the will to succeed and the determination to never quit that makes all the difference.

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About the author

Nic Simmonds

Nic Simmonds is co-founder of Clockwork Media, one of South Africa’s best-known and fastest-growing marketing and communications agencies. Post-university, Nic cut his teeth creating online content as’s first employee. After a few years in publishing, he joined forces with current business partner, Tom Manners, to establish a small content production shop that is now five years old, boasting over 80 permanent staff and a portfolio including several big name brands.

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