What makes a successful entrepreneur?

What are those elusive character traits that spell the difference between success and being one of the 50% who fail in the first five years?


You’ve heard of needing determination, passion and adaptability but what does this look like on the ground?

The Camino de Santiago de Compestela

An ancient pilgrimage that draws on the same entrepreneurial skills of the modern business person and demonstrates entrepreneurial success in action, is the Camino de Santiago de Compostela or the Way of St. James. The pilgrimage, dating back to the 9th Century, converges at the tomb of St James in North West Spain.

Entrepreneur vs Pilgrim

The similarities between a pilgrim on the Camino and a successful entrepreneur allow us to understand those much needed character traits in action.

Your Attitude to Failure – If you start, fail, and don’t dust yourself off and start again, you’ll get nowhere. As entrepreneur Richard Branson said: “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”

To be a successful entrepreneur you must not only face your fears, but address them head on.

Seek Personal Growth and Strength – No one embarks upon the Camino as a gentle Sunday afternoon stroll to while away time. Its intended purpose is to achieve personal and spiritual growth and strength. Likewise, the successful entrepreneur will realise that their venture must be a journey of discovery and growth, ultimately building the strength needed for success. Your personal development is crucial to your business success.

Don’t Set Boundaries – The Camino is in fact a network of paths from across Europe, gradually wending their way towards Spain and converging. There is no individual set path. The same is true for the successful entrepreneur. Don’t set boundaries or limitations or you limit your scope for success.

The Journey Matters – Whilst the tomb of St. James is the ultimate destination, few set out with this as the sole purpose of the pilgrimage. Rather, it’s the journey, the personal growth and development, the challenge and importantly the people encountered along the way that make the Camino what it is. A successful entrepreneur will know the benefit of networking, meeting interesting people along the way and always asking advice. Like the Camino, everyone, including you, has their own personal story to share and their own reasons for the journey they walk.

Know Your Limitations and Combat Them – You’re unlikely to get far on the Camino without a little training, some long distance hiking skills, fitness and a determination to learn. Likewise in business you need the honesty to identify your weaknesses and limitations and strive to acquire the skills you need and to recognise when training or mentoring is required.

Determination to Succeed – What marks a successful entrepreneur out from the many who stumble and fail is an absolute, resolute determination to succeed. Those who reach the tomb of St James have the stamina to overcome difficulties. It’s the same for the entrepreneur: stamina to keep going when times are tough. Whilst on the Camino this might mean fighting through the pain of blisters, on the entrepreneurial journey it might mean facing investor knock backs or the naysayers.

Entrepreneurial Mountainous Ups and Downs

Whilst large sections of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela are largely flat, don’t let that deceive you that it is an easy walk. As two wanderers from The Lonely Planet state:

“You’ll be jealous, petty, hungry, thirsty, furious, ecstatic, joyful, silly, sick, stupid, inane and perfect. You’ll be intensely involved with the intricate workings and changes in your own body and you’ll be thrown up against a wide variety of people from all over the world. You’ll essentially be given a crash course in what it means to be human. Enjoy the hell out of it.”


The same is true for the successful entrepreneur. You will see others succeeding when you fail – resolve to try harder and again. You will get furious in one moment and ecstatic in another. You’ll wonder if you have the intelligence, wit and drive to be one of the few who makes it. You’ll meet people who inspire and others who bring you down. You’ll realise the journey is what is going to spell the difference between success and failure and shape you in to the person you are going to become. You’ll stand astounded as you push through limitations and recognise the personal development, growth and strength you’ve gained.

You will have walked the Camino of Entrepreneurship and reached your goal.