Have you ever dreamed of being your own boss?  Nearly everyone has.  The freedom to choose your own hours, pick your projects, work when you want to work, and charge what you want to charge is a heady combination.  But some people are better suited to the entrepreneurial life than others. 

Compliance and Ethics is a fast-growing field, especially when the broader GRC (governance, risk, and compliance) and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) are brought into the mix.  Now is a great time to join the ranks of entrepreneurs in our growing space.  But do you have what it takes?

In honor of the publishing of Kirsten Liston, Joe Murphy and my new book, The Compliance Entrepreneur’s Handbook, here are five crucial traits of successful compliance entrepreneurs.  Without these, it will be difficult to succeed.

Trait One: Tenacity

When I was 18, I spent a summer working as a receptionist for a paper company. I was having a hard time understanding the complicated communications system, but I stuck with it until I had it mastered.  The manager called me “tenacious,” which was a word I had to look up.  Since that time, tenacity has been my favorite word.

Tenacity involves being determined, especially when things are difficult.  It involves pushing through hard times and cashflow crunches, as well times when you’re simply uninspired and don’t feel like getting out of bed. 

Before starting your business, consider whether you’re committed to the six months to a year that it will likely take to become successful.  Tenacity will be required.

Trait Two: Vision

What does success look like to you?  If you don’t know where you’re going, it will be impossible to arrive.  You must know what you want to build and see the pathway to your goals.   

Businesses take dramatically different forms.  Are you planning on being a solo consultant?  Starting with a partnership? Creating software? Selling to small, medium, or large companies?  You need a vision for your company.  The vision will inform all of the decisions you make, from naming your company to positioning yourself on social media.

(We have an entire section dedicated to creating your vision in The Compliance Entrepreneur’s Handbook.)

Trait Three:  Humility

Most entrepreneurs start out trying to do everything themselves.  Whether to save cash or because they’re stubborn, they try to do everything from setting up an accounting system to filing their own limited company paperwork.  Humility is required to know when you should invest your time and energy, and when to bring in other people.

Humility is also required when a product launch fails.  The nature of entrepreneurship is that you don’t know what will work until it’s released to the market.  You may write an outstanding whitepaper or give what you think will be a great speech, only to get a lukewarm response.  You might launch an innovative new technology solution only to have one company buy it after all that work.  Humility allows you to learn the lessons and come back stronger.

Trait Four: Flexibility

“Iterate” is a favorite word among entrepreneurs.  To iterate is to bring something to market, tweak it, then release it again.  Entrepreneurs iterate to make their product or service better in response to market feedback.  Flexibility is required to respond to market feedback.

Flexibility is also required to refine your vision over time.  You may think you’re creating a great training solution only to find out that your network is focused on risk assessments, so you need to focus on that offer and abandon your original idea.  YouTube started as a video dating service, then pivoted to the platform it is today.  The founders had the flexibility to pivot from what they’d originally imagined.  You need to be flexible to succeed in the long term.

Trait Five: Optimism

Well-meaning friends and family will tell you all sorts of grim statistics about the likelihood of your venture failing.  When I started Spark Compliance in London six years ago, my sister sent me a link to a job posting in New York with a note that said, “You have to have a job!”  I told her I had a job with my new company.  Without the optimism to believe I could succeed, I never would have started, much less kept going.

Cautious optimism is warranted at times.  For instance, you don’t want to burn through cash in your first six months buying fancy office furniture because you’re certain of your own success.  Regardless, without optimism, the lulls may be too much to bear.  Positivity and action are the antidotes to fear.

Should you start your own business?  It depends.  Careful self-evaluation will help to ensure that you make the right choice.  For me, I love being an entrepreneur, but I recognize it’s not for everyone.  If you have the five traits listed in this article, you’re on good footing.  This leads to the sixth and most important trait – courage.  If you have the courage to try, you’re already halfway there.

Want to learn the tools, tips, and tactics to find your killer idea and create success on your own terms?  Check out The Compliance Entrepreneur’s Handbook, available on Amazon (here), in libraries, and wherever books are sold.