The Best Qualities of an Entrepreneur: Impatience

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What are the best qualities of an entrepreneur? A hunger to succeed and thirst for results dubs some CEOs impatient. But is that such a bad thing?

What Are the Best Qualities of an Entrepreneur?

People often tell me that I walk too fast. I’ll be out walking somewhere with friends, and I’ll find myself five paces ahead of them – and my friends have to tell me, “Hey, wait up!”

In this sense, I’m not a very patient person – it’s just the way I’m wired.

I can’t help it. I have an internal sense of urgency. The way I approach anything entrepreneurially is to have impatience with the situation. Once I know where I want to go, I want to start getting there as soon as possible.

To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to have a sense of impatience. Impatience is synonymous with ambition, with motivation, with a drive for results. There’s an old saying in sales, “You eat what you kill” – if you have a goal, if you want to succeed, you have to go out there and get it. You can’t wait for success to come to you.

Steve Jobs is famously impatient – everyone who’s ever worked with him testifies to his impatience with product development time, his constantly pushing the envelope on designs, always demanding more, better, faster – and this sense of impatience is what helped Apple transform a slow-moving telecom industry that previously hadn’t had a lot of innovation since the wireless phone.

Was President Kennedy patient about putting a man on the moon? (People said “it can’t be done, we have to wait, the science is too complex…”)

Was President Obama patient about getting health care reform passed? (People said “slow down, it’s too much to do at once, the politics is too complex…”)

There are certain times when you should be VERY patient – with people, employees, family, and people’s feelings – there are many situations where you need to be patient and understanding.

And being impatient doesn’t mean you should get angry about the weather or the flight delay or other things that are beyond your control.

Even when making business decisions, you shouldn’t be impatient all the time; there are occasions where you need to think things through, do your due diligence and avoid leaping too quickly into uncertain situations. Being impatient doesn’t mean being reckless; you need to take smart, calculated risks.

But when it comes to going out and getting what you need – you have to be impatient. Don’t be patient when it comes to pursuing your dream. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Be impatient. Be restless. Be hungry. Be determined to create your own luck, not wait for good fortune to land in your lap.

Entrepreneurs frequently walk faster than everyone else – I swear I’m not the only one. We tend to have an internal sense of urgency in all that we do.

I’ve consulted with hundreds of restaurant companies, big and small – and most of the time, the entrepreneur who built the company is in the room with me. From my experience, you can definitely see patterns in the type of people who have achieved a great deal of success. One of the common traits is impatience.

There’s an old story about how you can boil a frog to death just by slowly heating up the water – it happens so gradually that the frog doesn’t notice until it’s too late. An “impatient” frog wouldn’t sit there and take it – an impatient frog would have already hopped out of the pot to go find something else.

One other caveat – impatient entrepreneurs need to have a clear objective. Aimless impatience is counterproductive; you need to focus your impatience on a goal, and then once you have settled on a goal, you can take clear and immediate steps toward its attainment.

At almost every consulting project that my firm works on, we start with a planning session – helping the client and their company identify what their biggest goals and deepest motivations really are. These aren’t necessarily financial goals – it’s a process to marry emotion to these corporate objectives, build a “backwards road map” to get to the top of the mountain – we work with these executives, and we ask them, working backwards from your dream, what is the first step that you need to take to get there?

I’ve noticed that with the people who are really successful, once we identify their ultimate goal, they want to take that first step forward RIGHT AWAY. Their attitude is, “Now that I know what I want, I’m going to go get it!”

Successful people are eager and impatient to take that first step. Others get paralyzed contemplating it: soon the momentum and excitement wears off, and then they’re back to their old patterns and old results.

Business is about more than quantifiable objectives, tactics and numbers – there’s also an element of passion and commitment. Part of getting entrepreneurs to focus on their ultimate goal is dredging up some serious emotional commitments. You have to facilitate a conversation and help people realize the answers – and really commit to taking that first step.

I’ve come to realize that my role as a consultant is often about helping people find their “cause,” not just their business goals.

But the most successful entrepreneurs, once they find their cause, are impatient to take the first steps toward fulfilling it. In the best sense, that’s what “impatience” means to me – it’s about maximizing your life, exercising your influence on what you can control and change, following your passion, and making the biggest possible difference in the world.

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