Take a risk, be focused, live by the passion

Three savvy business people share their views on what it takes to be successful, writes Gayle Bryant.

Three savvy business people share their views on what it takes to be successful, writes Gayle Bryant.

Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, and with more than 30 per cent of small businesses failing in their start-up, it is worth checking out the traits that characterise some of Australia's success stories.

One of Australia's best-known entrepreneurs is Naomi Simson, founder of online gift retailer RedBalloon. She is often asked what character traits are needed to succeed in business.

"I usually defer to businessman and entrepreneur Jack Cowin who puts it better than I ever could," Simson says. "I saw Jack present at the EY Entrepreneurs workshop, where he opened with the quote 'an entrepreneur needs to be a cross between a microbiologist and an astronomer'. He believes that true entrepreneurs are special in that they can be both detailed and visionary."

Simson says great entrepreneurs are curious, persistent, are searching for better ways to do things, endlessly positive, focused and have exemplary people skills.

While entrepreneurs can be born with these traits, she says some can also be learned.

"Curiosity and positivity are hard things to teach - you either have them or you don't," she says.

"But characteristics like focus and persistence can be learnt - and need to be. Without them you're unlikely to make it as an entrepreneur or business owner."

Simson attributes the success of her own business to tenacity and hard work.

"It was almost three months before RedBalloon made its first sale," she says. "People used to ask me, 'When were you going to give up?' but the thought never crossed my mind. I never, ever thought that it would not work and I never contemplated throwing in the towel."

Australia's tall poppy syndrome can be a factor in potentially successful entrepreneurs falling by the wayside. Simson says entrepreneurs can be derided if they get "above their post", take a risk, and fail.

"This is not very productive in a country that needs strong, decisive leaders more than ever," she says. "As entrepreneurs - anywhere in the world - we often have trouble imagining failure in the first place. But that doesn't mean failing is a bad thing. Failure is very much a reality of being an entrepreneur - we take risks and sometimes those risks don't pay off."

Jonathan Barouch started his business, Fast Flowers, in 1999 when he was 17 and still at school. The business flourished and after 10 years, he sold it to the Singleton Group, which owned online rival 1300 Flowers.

"I then formed my current business, Local Measure (formerly Roamz), which helps companies understand what customers are saying about them while on their premises," Barouch says.

Along the way Barouch has received a number of awards and recognition for his entrepreneurship. He says he always needs to do something that challenges him. "I think one of the main traits of an entrepreneur is the need for bloody-mindedness," he says. "You need to keep a single focus and ignore what the naysayers say. Entrepreneurs are the ones that say, 'Why not?"'

Barouch says being an entrepreneur is a bit like going into a boxing match and always getting knocked down. "You need to keep getting up," he says.

One of the issues he finds in Australia and also in parts of Asia is the lack of respect afforded to people who fail in business. "In the US you have this respect if you fail, especially around technology companies. The founder of GroupOn failed two or three times before his business became successful."

Entrepreneur Samantha Dybac is just back from Moscow where she attended the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit, attended by 400 entrepreneurs from around the world.

The founder of Sammway, a marketing, communications and events business, Dybac says: "I believe entrepreneurs are not born, they are made."

On her trip to Moscow "what I found is that very few are driven by commercial benefit," she says.

"A successful entrepreneur is one where the money isn't the driving force but is a result of what they are doing. Passion is a key trait."

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