5 traits successful business people have – do you have these?

Missed a week due to travel folks so firstly apologies for that – clearly my first trait should be the inability to keep an appointment with ones blog 🙂

OK so there are probably hundreds of things you need to be successful in business but I’ve been day dreaming this last week and working out my top 5 – I love a top 5 as you know 🙂

So here they are in no particular order

1). Passion – In bucketfuls. I spend an awful lot of my time with other businessmen and women. In my working life, networking constitutes at least half my time. It’s one of the key ways we build our brand and get our company noticed. From there, when people want a job done, we’re at least in with a chance. One trait of seriously successful businessmen and women I’ve met over the years is passion for what they do. Passion is catching; you know when you’ve met someone who is passionate about their business – you come away feeling good about yourself. Without this trait you’re going to start off on the back foot. If can’t get passionate about your business is it the right business for you? Think on that for a while.

2). Sales skills – Every start-up business needs to bring in sales. If you’re on your own then that’s you pal 🙂 If you’re not and you don’t like selling you better hope you’re in partnership with someone that does. You could have the best product or service in the country but if no-one knows about it then you may as well give up now. Sale’s doesn’t need to be cheesy, it doesn’t need to be immoral, it doesn’t need to feel dirty! Much of good quality sales is about building relationships and making the customer want to buy (not be sold). I strongly suggest reading the book below (affiliate link) which will, without a doubt, help with your sales process. In fact, even if you’re not in sales or running a business, read it anyway because its awesome.

The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness – You can buy it from Amazon here.

3). A good product or service – Not technically a trait, but the ability to either come up with or be involved in selling a good product or service is a trait that I see all the time in successful people. You make your own luck, you earn it. These people have a sixth sense for getting involved with projects that do well. They fail a lot as well but the difference is the ones that work, really work. I know there are an awful lot of people out there selling sub standard products and services in their business – forget that – it’s a short-term attitude if you ask me. It won’t be long before you’re found out and the churn rate on customers will be huge meaning you never build relationships with people, you continually need new prospects poured in the top of your sales funnel. If you ask me, without a good product or service that you truly believe in, just don’t bother. You need to believe that your customer is truly better off by choosing you over your competitors.

4). A head for numbers and in particular cashflow – Since I started this blog almost exactly a year ago I know for a fact the most blogged about topic has been cashflow. There is a good reason for this – because it’s so damn important 🙂 Without cashflow you have no business. I’m not going to go over old ground again on this. I wrote quite a lengthy post about cashflow here and even gave a step by step guide on how to write a cash flow forecast – you have no excuse 🙂

5). The ability to accept help and support – Business is a lonely place sometimes, help and support is essential but how often have I seen business owners that think they know it all and therefore are not prepared to accept it fail – Too many is the answer!!! Friends and family without their own business may not understand quite what it takes to run a business and unless they ever do it themselves they may never understand. This doesn’t mean you don’t listen to these people or dismiss their input – it can be just as valuable. It’s important to build a network of support around you that you can bounce ideas off. I’m lucky to have a great business partner at Optix Solutions who I bounce ideas off and chat with about strategy regularly. We also have a couple of mentor figures who consult us on the business regularly and keep us on track. We also have supportive families and friends – all of which make the days when it’s not so fun, easier to deal with. The successful businessman or woman doesn’t know it all and is willing to listen to others…do you?

So what are your top 5? Maybe you just want to add in a couple? I’m keen to hear from you


  1. Dan Cave on 23rd April 2010 at 9:24 am

    Passion, Sales skills, A good product or service, A head for numbers and ability to accept help. I agree with them all.

    I think I would also add to the list: “Being thick skinned” to survive the some of the tough times you will undoubtedly encounter and the ability to think on your feet when disaster strikes.

    • Banksy on 23rd April 2010 at 10:24 am

      Good one Dan – Ability to think on ones feet is something that happens to every business owner day after day. There is hardly a day that goes by where everything ‘goes exactly as I thought it would go’ – In fact scrap that, there is no such day! In a constantly changing business environment where you have pressures including staff (:P), finance, clients, relationships (both personal and business), admin tasks, emails to answer, phonecalls to take, people to see, if you weren’t able to deal with all those things and adapt to ever moving targets you may as well forget it.

      Really good point Dan – thanks for dropping by and participating 🙂

  2. Scott Gould on 23rd April 2010 at 9:32 am

    Hey Al

    5 very good points, and ones I feel I am growing in – particular numbers and sales over the past month.

    I’d agree with your top 5 Al – it’s a good mix between “soft” things like passion and help / support, plus the bottom line movers like cash flow, products and numbers.

    Thanks for writing helpful content!


    • Banksy on 23rd April 2010 at 10:20 am

      Cheers Scott – I tried to find that balance but in just 5 points it’s quite hard 🙂

  3. Graham White on 23rd April 2010 at 10:31 am

    Like the other guys, I agree Mr Banks, for business people as you say.

    I’m driven by this towards thinking about other types of people too. For example, technical people (of which I know you’ll also fit in). Shameless plug coming up for one of my own blog posts (excuse me for that), but I love this description of techies (or geeks) http://gibbalog.blogspot.com/2009/07/best-venn-diagram-ever.html

    I wonder, given that picture, what your 5 tips would be for technical guys? …and then for other types of people or careers too???

    • Banksy on 23rd April 2010 at 4:27 pm

      Graham that’s an awesome diagram mate 🙂 You’ll have to let me ponder on those 5 tips for techies – I can feel another blog post coming on!!!

      Cheers for commenting

  4. Julian Summerhayes on 23rd April 2010 at 11:35 am


    A great post and thanks.

    Values I think are massive – they underpin practically all the rest. This is not just doing business ethically or with the ‘right’ people but actually standing up for something or somebody and being prepared to be different.

    Your 5 are a good started for 10 but my experience is that in trying to distinguish one business from another (in the same market sector) is increasingly difficult (IT/Sm being no different or professional services). They all walk and talk the same but if the values are right then they shine through and for me make a real and positive difference (ROI and all that stuff).

    You may not have read the book the Go-Giver by @BobBurg and @JohnDavidMann but it should be read by every budding entrepreneur or student of enterprise.

    It has been endorsed by Seth Godin, Stephen Covey and Dr Spencer Johnson and is a parable as to how to run and operate a successful business. It is based on 5 Stratospheric Laws the first one being that I must give more in value than I receive in payment. This is more than the trite added value mantra and comes back to the values point as to what you are in business for – sure a profit but how.

    Sales is a misnomer to me because it conjures up all the wrong connotations. I would be much more focused on trust based networking or referral marketing.

    I could go on but the bottom line for me is values and the art (in Seth Godin speak) of Giving.

    Check out the book next time you are passing Waterstones. It is well worth the investment.

    Best wishes

    • Banksy on 23rd April 2010 at 4:24 pm

      Thanks Julian for such a thoughtful and insightful comment. You can be sure that I will check out the Go-Giver – its been added to my remember the milk account just now 🙂 That endorsement is really quite something.

      You’re absolutely right – values are imperative and something I see in most successful people. I do however (and annoyingly) know a few successful people without particularly great values – I try not to spend much time with these people!

      Thanks again for stopping by…

  5. Jonathan on 23rd April 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Another good post, Al! Some great advice.

    I agree with Julian that Values are key. It’s something we spend a lot of time talking about to our clients, because they are crucial to success. The Values of a business are what make you unique; they are the reason people buy from you, and not your competitors. Richard Reed, of Innocent – the drinks company – is a great advocate of the importance, and (financial) value, of Values, and the role they played in creating a business worth £100m + in 10 years.

    And I think Point 5 is really important too, because if you’re not good at 1-4, recognising that, and finding someone to help you with it, will make a world of difference!

    • Banksy on 23rd April 2010 at 4:37 pm

      Jon, Thanks again – Innocent are a brand that I follow quite closely for inspiration – I love the ‘little things’ that they manage to communicate through all their products. As you guys at Alder and Alder help people with, it’s all about brand and those brand values. Maybe you could do a guest post on brand for me on iambanksy at some point?

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