Small businesses and the industries they represent may differ widely, but often the traits of those who lead them are remarkably similar.

In over 30 years of business coaching here are the seven character traits that stand out in the small business owners I’ve encountered who achieve success…  


It takes drive and passion to start an enterprise then lead it year after year, day in day out, and those who do it best possess these traits in spades.

It’s the drive to see things differently, assess the risks, take a gamble and learn from mistakes that stems from a vision to achieve beyond the average.


Business is about vision and goals – the vision of a unique offering and successful operation, the goal of a better life, a solid income, of six staff instead of two.

Successful operators not only establish goals but stick to them, assessing their effectiveness, relevance and outcome. 

And it’s not just the big goals like increased revenue, it’s short term goals that equate to major success when compounded over time.


Think small business and it’s all about keeping lots of balls in the air. It’s about payroll, accounts payable, marketing, stock and products, which makes successful operators adept at multi-tasking.

They know their time is money and that they must account for it, save it and value it while ensuring business does not engulf their entire life.

The best operators are strict with their time, allocating it to the various tasks required.


Creativity isn’t just about an entrepreneurial spirit, it extends to problem solving, customer knowledge, sensing opportunity, and having the ability to work through an issue by seeing it differently.


There are few small businesses which have a completely easy ride. There will always be times of challenge, changing trends, new competition or economical slumps, but successful operators see this as part of the journey. 

Many view a challenge as an opportunity to learn and evolve, shift gears and set new goals.

They will upskill when required, seek help when necessary and step back to take a different view of their business.


When you’re at the helm of a ship you require an inherent confidence in your ability to reach the destination you choose. This is a quiet confidence, not arrogance, in your ability to create a vision, set goals, hire the right people and lead them well.

It’s also a confidence that you know what your customer wants and can deliver it with consistency.


This may seem like a direct contradiction to confidence, but in truth the two go hand in hand.

Success is often about the confidence and humility to recognise when you need help, when you require better expertise or should seek advice to move forward. 

It’s about recognising mistakes and having the awareness to analyse them, learn from them and use them as part of your arsenal of business skills.

The final word

Running a small business can be exciting, fulfilling and incredibly rewarding when you play to your natural strengths.

Business is about drive, passion, energy and resilience, and maintaining impetus throughout the life of your time at the helm of an operation.

The cover of a course on business vision and mission.

Discover More in Honing Your Vision and Mission

Values, Mission, and Vision are the foundation of a business. Understanding them clearly makes for a more simple business life.

In this mini-course we look at what Vision and Mission are and how to hone yours.

This course will lead you through the difference, how to create each and why they are vital to your success.