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Character traits to succeed as a small business



Featured | Small Business

By Simon Rountree

Whilst having a good understanding on the governance controls and financial duties of operating your SME are important a 2017 NAB (Character Traits of Successful SMEs) has found that its less about these and more about your passion, grit, resilience and developing a growth mindset that really matter.

According to Kwanghui Lim, Associate professor of Strategic Management, Melbourne Business School a growth mindset is essential to SME success; “SME owners are focused on growth or building something that is scalable or that can be taken to other markets. It’s often about having a mindset that’s responsive to change is open to learning and is skilled in being resilience that really matter.”

The role of an SME owner is to lead their business in order to achieve its goals. They play an important role in establishing a clear vision, creating employee engagement together with maintaining productivity and performance.

The NAB report asked over 800 SME business owners what they thought were the crucial traits to creating a successful business with the following results. Some of which may surprise you.

  • Grit and hard work: Grit is the passion and perseverance for long-term meaningful goals. It’s the ability to persist in something you feel passionate about and persevere when you face obstacles.
  • Growth mindset: Be prepared and open to learning new things. Take yourself on courses, get a mentor, develop networks and look for opportunities to better yourself.
  • Share your mistakes: Have a willingness to be vulnerable, share and accept failure and use it as a springboard to learning and improving.
  • Resilience: Developing the capacity to bounce back supports a mindset that creates more optimistic thinking rather than pessimistic thinking.
  • Change: Be open to change and embrace it. For every change there is an opportunity – look to see what opportunity there is for you.
  • Being calm: Whether it’s meeting deadlines, juggling customers or managing stock levels, employees and finances staying calm and level headed supports good decision making.

Whilst process, systems, policies and procedures are highly important in maintaining strong business governance within SMEs the above traits indicate a willingness of business owners to tap into the psychological skills and tools required to support their passion and drive. Having a mixture of these traits will enhance SMEs by equipping their people to become agile and responsive whilst connecting to their stakeholders in an authentic and relevant manner.


Simon Rountree is a pioneer of workplace engagement, resilience and wellbeing. His company Change Ready supports organisations, teams and individuals deal with the uncertainty of change through unique, proven and measurable programs based on the latest organisational change, cognitive science and positive psychology research.

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