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7 Essential Traits You’ll Need to Become Your Own Boss

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When I decided to leave my job as a receptionist, I was exhausted and burnt out from making my job a number-one priority — and to top it off, I could barely pay my bills. I loved what I did, but I didn’t care for the people in charge who showed no appreciation and no passion. I felt I had enough experience and fresh ideas to start my own company and work for myself.

Although I faced a multitude of long days and nights, time away from friends and family, missed gatherings, and the overall feeling of being an overworked lunatic at times, it was well worth it to go from wages to profits — and from being told what to do to running my own show.

Whether you’re thinking of starting a company from scratch or buying into one, you need to be ready for the challenge. Here are seven essential character traits that led me from the cube to entrepreneurship:

  1. Passion. I began my career in staffing as a receptionist. I was given a multitude of tedious tasks and took every chance I could to ask for more work. I worked hard and I was given more assignments, but with what seemed like little appreciation and acknowledgement from the management team. Because I truly loved my job, I didn’t let that get me down. My heart was in it to win it. I continued to take on payroll, sales and recruiting tasks, and within a year, I was promoted to a recruiter. Success is not easy, but when you love what you do, the stress, challenges and bumps in the road are easier to overcome. Passion serves as a driver, the thing that sustains you when things get tough.
  2. Tenacity. There were over 30 staffing firms in my local market with a maximum of three sales reps in the county per company, and I was just one person from an unknown mom-and-pop company that turned national. I worked long hours and heard “no” many times. The VP of human resources at one company — a company that eventually became my biggest client — told me never to come back, that they’d never use my service. I spent hours researching and practicing different pitching techniques, and I continued to call the VP of human resources and finally decided to show my face again. I found the HR manager, pitched my seminar and, to my amazement, she signed right up! Less than a month after that meeting, we had placed 20 temporary employees and were working on filling 30 more positions. Don’t give up when faced with negativity.
  3. Learning ability. Become an information junkie. You cannot be successful without reading. I read as much as I could to develop my skill as a speaker, writer and sales and staffing industry expert. It’s important to invest in yourself. There is always something you can improve on; make daily deposits in your personal development bank.
  4. Relationship building. Relationships are the bread and butter of success. We need people to buy our products or services, and vice versa. The more connected you are, the more resources you will have access to and the easier success will be. Social media can help, but I still believe face-to-face interaction is the best. Start by becoming a leader in your local community — join the local Chamber of Commerce, join the board of a local nonprofit organization. Make a point to get connected and stay connected. Everyone knows someone. Word of mouth is the fastest and easiest way to build your business, brand and bank account!
  5. Vision. I was adamant that I was going to either start my own company or be a partner of a staffing firm by age 30, and due to my hard work and determination, I was an owner by age 25. Every day, anywhere I went, my goals were in sight. I put Post-it notes all through my house — on the fridge, on every mirror, at the office, in my car and on my nightstand. Seeing my goals everywhere motivated me to constantly do things that would get me one step closer to making my dream a reality.
  6. Discipline. Out of all the key essentials, this one was the toughest for me. We all have to make sacrifices to get what we want. It’s important to have a work/life balance, but I missed out on many college happy hours to work at home or attend a networking event and build my brand. Founding a company is like marriage: it’s a lifetime commitment. Any commitment that big requires discipline. Are you ready to make the sacrifice?
  7. Time management. The only thing we will never get back is time, so make the best use of it. Try this trick: every evening, jot down the 10 most important items to do the following day, in order of importance. Make room in your daily calendar to get the top two items done first thing in the morning. This way, no matter what else the day brings you, you have spent time on the two most important items of the day!

Nicole Smartt is the Vice President and co-owner of Star Staffing. She was recently awarded the Forty Under 40 award, recognizing business leaders under the age of 40. In addition, Nicole co-founded the Petaluma Young Professionals Network, an organization dedicated to helping young professionals strive in the business world. Nicole can be found on twitter; @StaffingqueenN.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.


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Nicole's time management trick is spot on - remembering even just the two most important things to do each day make a world of difference. It's disillusioning to work all day on "doing email," so instead being purposeful and mindful of what you're working on!

Excellent & inspirational article ! I work in temporary staffing and I cannot think about a better job to learn to be an entrepreneur ! You need passion and stamina to succeed !

completely agree with these - the one thing I would argue though is that energy management is equally, if not more important than some of these. you can't be a good leader unless you yourself are centered and can see the path forward clearly.

I love that passion is listed No.1 on this list. When you have that, you are able to both enroll others in your vision and keep yourself on the path to success when faced with challenges.

Maxie, I completely agree with that - it can be the only thing that sets your vision apart, especially in the beginning stages, and is definitely the only thing that gives it endurance.

I really need to invest in some post-its. Maxie and Caroline, I too agree on the importance of passion. That is the number one thing that gets me through every single day.

great post & inspirational story!

This is inspirational and really useful!

This is a great article! As an entrepreneur who owns my medical practice I know how hard, but how very worth it, it is to be a business owner. I love her point about tenacity. I have been told "no" too many times to count along my entrepreneurial journey, but I never let that stop me. Sure, it stings a bit every time I hear it, but every 'no' get's me closer to my 'YES'! -- Dr. Carmen April (

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