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The Only 3 Things That Matter if You Want to Be an Entrepreneur

Businessman standing in office looking outBusinessman standing in office looking out

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “What qualities make an amazing entrepreneur?” is written by Jerome Ternynck, founder and CEO of SmartRecruiters.

Entrepreneurs are born, not made. If you have an entrepreneurial mindset, you will know it. It goes right along with confidence as a requirement for success in the startup world.

And, despite what you might hear from other so-called experts, the idea you come up with doesn’t matter. And neither does having a good market. Instead, successful entrepreneurs share three core attributes:

Leadership ability
At some point, you will see something that no one else sees. You will be able to develop a vision based on what you see and then convince others to commit time and money to help you explore opportunities and options. This is why founder-led businesses have greater success — the founders establish stronger corporate culture, define opportunities, and then provide the leadership needed to attract investors and employees.

What inspired me to start SmartRecruiters, a next-generation talent acquisition platform, was hearing that more than half of all working adults in the U.S. want a new career, as recently confirmed by a University of Phoenix School of Business survey. And, ironically, most employers are constantly seeking quality recruits. So, it’s actually a matching challenge—bringing together jobs and candidates, increasing hiring effectiveness.

The point is that an entrepreneur has the ability to create a vision that others usually can’t initially see themselves, and then serve, in effect, as the “backbone” of that vision.

Single-minded obsession
To put it bluntly, building a business is incredibly hard and requires careful attention to detail. Let’s face it: A company founder has to drive it all, tracking every detail and becoming obsessed with the company’s success. It’s not a lifestyle — it’s more like a disease, almost a form of addiction. Starting a company is not for the faint of heart.

I think about my company all of the time, even when I sleep. I always wake up with fresh, good ideas—things that come to me in my dreams. If you’re not obsessed, then your attention will be drawn to easier, more enjoyable things. And your business will suffer as a result.

I was recently speaking with one of our early investors, a VC who has seen hundreds of pitches from would-be entrepreneurs. He said that he has often been asked to identify the common denominator that all successful entrepreneurs share. His response: obsession.


The stress that entrepreneurs experience is almost impossible to describe. Obviously, starting a company is nothing like working for a company.

One of my colleagues talks about a dream he frequently has: He is in a Broadway production, on stage, with his entire family sitting in the front row. But he has forgotten his lines—and his clothes. Welcome to entrepreneurship! It’s like you’re naked and don’t know what to do.

But what you never do is give up. You have to be resilient, tenacious, and persistent no matter what.

At my first startup, we would have a weekly meeting during which we would ask ourselves the same question: Do we give up and file bankruptcy, or keep going? We would always decide to keep going. Or, as I liked to say then and continue to believe, “If there is life, there is hope.”

My point is that no great businesses would be built if every entrepreneur gave up when things got tough. It gets back to those three characteristics of great entrepreneurs. When things get tough, remain obsessed and resilient as you lead your company to success.