5 characteristics of a true entrepreneur

Just like Sir Richard Branson, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you must be able to do these five things.

Peter Iantorno February 26, 2015

In the words of legendary entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson: "If you want swashbuckling action in your life, become an entrepreneur and give it a go." And who better to take advice from than one of the world's leading entrepreneurs?

In a career spanning more than 40 years, Branson has started more than 400 business, building himself a net worth of almost $5 billion. He's worked with everything from soft drinks and aviation, to music and even space tourism, but still, at the age of 64, his entrepreneurial spirit remains.

Here are five things that every entrepreneur must be able to do, as illustrated by some choice quotes from the brilliant man himself:

Take risks
A true entrepreneur is always willing to take risks in pursuit of his dream and Branson is certainly no different, as he's showed on multiple occasions - like when he signed controversial band Sex Pistols to his record label, much to the dismay of his advisers. "Screw it, let's just do it," he's quoted as saying. However there's a fine line between brave and foolhardy, and if you cross over that line, it could spell disaster for your business, so living by another one of Branson's quotes - "Protect yourself against the worst eventualities. Make sure you know what they are" - is certainly advisable.

"The best way of learning anything is by doing it."

Sex Pistols Virgin record label

Be tenacious
Even the most calculated of risk-takers is bound to suffer a setback at some point or another. Remember Virgin Cola? It was a commercial disaster, and didn't come close to challenging the established soft drink giants, but that failure didn't stop Branson from pushing on with his many other projects.

"If you're hurt, lick your wounds and get up again," he once said. A true entrepreneur has a burning desire to keep on going no matter what happens, and will stop at nothing until his goals are achieved. Irrespective of how many times he's knocked down, he simply will never give up.

"Do not be embarrassed by your failures; learn from them and start again."

virgin cola Richard Branson Think of the bigger picture
A good idea is a good idea, and tiny stumbling blocks are no reason to slow down progression, potentially losing the upper hand and opening your business up to the prospect of someone getting there before you. It's easy to get hung up the details when forming business ideas, but a true entrepreneur will always have the bigger picture in mind and know that the complexities can be ironed out further down the line.

“Some 80% of your life is spent working. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?”

Richard Branson Enjoy it
Wether he's driving a tank down Fifth Avenue or flying around the world in a hot air balloon, if there's one thing Richard Branson knows how to do, it's have fun. However, while it is undoubtedly important to have fun in the workplace, of course you don't get to where Branson is today without maintaining a certain work ethic and competitive edge.

For example, back in 2000, Virgin's rival airline British Airways won the sponsorship to the London Eye, but they had trouble erecting the wheel, so Branson quickly scrambled an airship to fly over the wheel with the message: 'BA can't get it up'. It was cheeky, a good laugh, but above all, great publicity. As Branson says, "We have fun competing, and we do it with a smile."

"When you're first thinking through an idea, it's important not to get bogged down in complexity. Thinking simply and clearly is hard to do."

BA Virgin publicity stunt. Don't do it for money
Ok, we know what you're thinking: of course you want to start your own business for the money! But while switching from employment and being given just a small slice of the pie, to running your own business and getting the whole pie, will certainly give you the opportunity to make more cash, it shouldn't be the main reason for striking out on your own.

It doesn't matter what the business is - perhaps it will give something back to society, make people's lives easier, or maybe it's simply too clever not to share - the main thing is that the idea and not the money is the force driving you to go on.

"Entrepreneurial business favours the open mind. It favours people whose optimism drives them to prepare for many possible futures, pretty much purely for the joy of doing so."

Richard Branson