Houston Voices

3 personality traits every entrepreneur has, according to the University of Houston

There are many character traits a startup founder needs to ensure success. You have to be a hard worker with communications skills and charisma and…so much more. Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

It's no secret that every successful business leader has multiple personality traits.

It seems everyone has a fantasy about starting a business. "I'd open up a record store." "I'd sell my famous meatball sandwiches my family loves so much." "I would totally own a comic book shop."

In fact, according to the University of Phoenix, over 60 percent of 20+ year-olds have strongly considered starting their own business.

I mean, that's a step in the right direction. You have to have desire. We can all agree there. But surely it takes more than that if you're serious about starting, and maintaining, a business, right?

So, here we'll take a look three personality traits just about every startup founder possesses.

The ability to look forward

Vision. Imagine walking everywhere with a cap brim so low over your eyes, that you can only see your feet when you walk. You can't see anything beyond that. You cannot see the cars, mailboxes, pedestrians, trees, or anything that might come your way. That's what it's like if you don't have vision.

Without a vision for the future, for what lies beyond, you will not be prepared for the inevitable obstacles. You won't know when to change direction. When brace yourself for a coming problem and prepare for it. You need to look beyond the present and envision what your company will look like in 10 years. And then persuade others to see that same vision and invest in it.

Communication

Communication. There's a video on YouTube of a dog running down a sidewalk in a small town barking at two police officers. The cops could tell by the dog's movements and tone that he was barking not out of aggression, but because he needed something. The policemen followed the dog and discovered a burning house with children inside. Thankfully, they managed to save the kids as the house burned to cinders.

Despite the obvious interspecies communication barrier, the dog was able to communicate that something was wrong so that this problem could be solved. Far too often, a young startup founder will identify a big problem or a big need and spark a great idea for how to solve it, only to discover they aren't very good at communicating the problem and solution to investors. If you cannot communicate the problem, solution, and why you're the right man or woman for carrying out the solution, you'll have a hard time convincing investors to part with their money.

The best way to improve your communication skills is baptism by fire. Go out and, well, communicate! Do it often and soon you'll learn the nuances and intricacies of effective communication. Hand gestures, head movement, tone and timber, reading the other person, etc.

Persistence 

Persistence. You're going to encounter obstacles. I know, breaking news, right? You'll hit a snag here or there. Someone won't like your idea. An investor will pull out. Something. But because you're serious about making it, you have to just pull your collar up and face the cold winter wind. Keep marching forward. However, there's something I like to call "intelligent persistence."

Let's say someone doesn't like an idea you have. Maybe they don't think it's wise to add a flap to your what-cha-ma-whos-it contraption. Persistence doesn't mean don't listen to them and persist anyway. No. Intelligent persistence is listening to them, making a decision based on the feedback, and persisting with a more intelligent direction in mind. You have to listen to feedback, both the good and the bad. Persistence doesn't mean to ignore the bad. It means listen, get enlightened, and make a more educated decision in moving forward. Don't let the bad stuff drag you down. But don't go forward without learning from your negative feedback either.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea.

Rene Cantu is the writer and editor at UH Division of Research.

Lean methodology aims to help startups reduce risk and helps entrepreneurs make better, more efficient decisions. Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

There are few things riskier than launching a new business. You could run through a mine field and have a better chance at living than launching a successful, long-lasting business. In fact, the Harvard Business School even reported that three out of every four startups fail. Fortunately, a new process has come to light that was designed precisely to reduce the risk of starting a business. Lean startups champion trial and error over detailed planning. Customer feedback over "gut feeling." Cyclic processes of design over traditional development.

Some lean startup ideas have already gone mainstream because they've proven to be so effective. The principles of "minimum viable product" and "startup pivot" have become so engrained in modern business that even university business colleges have begun to teach them.

There are three key aspects of the lean methodology.

Educated guesses

Number one: Instead of spending a year conducting research and planning long-term, lean startup entrepreneurs go with the idea that all they have on the first day is a bunch of unproven ideas. Guesses, really. These entrepreneurs forego the traditional business plan and opt instead to give a Cliff Notes version of their big idea using a template dubbed "business model canvas." It's pretty much a diagram that shows how a business generates value not just for its consumers, but for itself.

Field work

Number two: Lean startups use an "out and about" method for testing their ideas. It's a kind of customer development. They go "out and about" and basically interview potential customers, interested people, and people on the fence about all aspects of their business. How's our pricing compared to others you've seen? Do you like our product features? What do you think of our strategy? Lean startup entrepreneurs amend their ideas based on the feedback they get from customers. That's the beauty of the lean method: it's based on your willingness to change directions based on new information. Sound familiar? Well, it should. I just described pivoting. A lean startup concept now adopted by major corporations.

Agility means stability not fragility

Number three: The software industry bore a method called agile development. Agile development cuts down on wasted time because it emphasizes the ability and willingness to change directions and adapt fast. That's what agile means. To move quickly. There's a company named RoofProtect Pro that created a chemical they thought would appeal to homeowners looking to reduce shingle rot. Turns out there wasn't really a demand for reducing shingle rot. It wasn't as big a deal as the RoofProtect Pro founders had hypothesized. However, after speaking with business owners they discovered there was a demand for something to help reduce rust and deterioration of signage. RoofProtect Pro went back to the drawing board to build and test a prototype for a chemical that reduces rust and staining on different material like concrete and metal. A year later RoofProtect Pro became SurfaceSustain and obtained over $2 million in venture capital funding.

Now that's agility!

It's no surprise, then, that in the high-stakes world of business, a methodology designed specifically to reduce risk would prove successful. Lean methods don't guarantee success, of course, but the principles it holds dear do help strip away a lot of wasted time and energy and have proven to be highly efficient. Now, if there's an antidote to riskiness, it's got to be efficiency. Efficiency tightens a business to bare bones so there is little room for big risks to hurt your venture.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea.

Rene Cantu is the writer and editor at UH Division of Research.