3 Essential Virtues for Small Business Owners

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Being a small business owner is one of the most rewarding and yet challenging things anyone can do. It involves a wide range of skills, and deep commitment. But it can also bring a great sense of personal satisfaction, financial security, and connection. Successful small business owners can have many personal characteristics, but here are three of the most fundamental, the essentials everything else builds upon.


It’s pretty rare for a business to hit a home run right off the bat. Almost every idea takes time—and hits all kinds of speedbumps along the way. And even businesses that succeed experience problems: marketing campaigns that don’t work, the loss of an important client, personal problems that take time away from the business, etc. The road to success isn’t short and straight, and rarely goes exactly according to plan; it often runs into dead ends and takes unexpected twists and turns before arriving at the destination. To navigate these waters takes a person with great persistence. Through every failure, every mistake, every difficulty, a small business owner has to keep going, keep trying new things, and keep on working.


It’s possible to get a lot of people to buy something once. Whether it’s novelty, a personal favor, or any other factor, it’s possible to get people in the door one time. But a sustainable, lasting business needs more than that. It needs customers who are satisfied with the work you do, who come back again and again, and recommend you to others. That only happens when you deliver on what you promise. A successful small business owner must be a person of integrity. Whether you are making explicit guarantees or implicit promises, your products and services have to match up to the expectations customers have. Outlandish promises might get a customer today, but when the business fails to live up to those promises, the unsatisfied customer will never be seen again, and not only will they not recommend the business to others, but they will likely actively discourage anyone else from coming. Being a person of integrity, an honest and transparent person, is the right thing to do in life, and it’s the right way to do business, too.


Ultimately, a business has to do something that helps people. That’s how to provide value to others and get them to trade cash for a product or service. So in order to succeed, a business has to be about coming up with solutions to problems other people have in their lives. Business experts love to talk about the value proposition—what is it that this particular business has to offer that should make people come there instead of somewhere else? Maybe it’s the quality of the product or service. Perhaps it’s the high level of customer service. It might be greater convenience or ease of use than competitors. Or maybe it’s lower prices. Whatever a business pursues, you’ll notice that every one of those options is about the customer. It’s not about the business or the owner’s ego. A customer isn’t going to make a purchase because of what’s in it for the business owner; they’ll do it because it makes sense for them. So a successful business owner can’t think selfishly and only about how to help themselves; they have to think about other people, about how they can help customers and do something for them. It requires letting go of self, and being selfless.

These are just a few of the most important attributes for entrepreneurs and small business owners. To learn more about what it takes to start or run a business and your entrepreneurial aptitude, consider the Tarkenton Certificate in Entrepreneurship, a comprehensive program that covers everything from the principles of entrepreneurship to the day-to-day necessities of running a business.
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