Conscientiousness is a useful trait in nearly ever career. Those who are conscientious are hardworking, dependable self starters. The research on personality clearly shows conscientiousness is a predictor of nearly every type of success.

Conscientious managers tend to perform better. Conscientious people tend to be more successful in training and education. Conscientious salespeople typically outperform their less conscientious colleagues.

So what of entrepreneurs? Startups are challenging, and small businesses have high mortality rates. In the United States, the Bureau of Labour Statistics [link] finds that 20-25% of businesses fail within the first year, only two-thirds remain after three years, only half are still surviving after six years, and fifteen years on, only one quarter of businesses are still in existence. Irrespective of the year of founding, and positioning in economic cycles, business survival rates are similar. 

The traits of the entrepreneur are important to the business. Unsurprisingly, the evidence shows conscientiousness effectively predicts entrepreneurial success. Ciavarella and colleagues [link] surveyed thousands of graduate students and tracked their progress over 25 years to examine the traits of those who started businesses, survival rates of businesses and business growth. The clear result was that conscientious entrepreneurs are more successful in starting, maintaining and expanding businesses. 

New business rely on the skills, knowledge, personality, experience and other attributes of the person(s) starting the business. There are of course external influences, supply and demand, labour forces conditions, availability of credit, etc. which may affect a business - but a successful entrepreneur must adapt to these external conditions.

This is interesting for two reasons, particularly when comparing the traits of entrepreneurs with successful leaders:

  1. There is a fundamental similarity between managers, leaders and entrepreneurs in the importance of conscientiousness. Higher conscientiousness improves success for both.
  2. Other than conscientiousness, the personality of a successful entrepreneur is very different from a manager or leaders of a large company. For example, while senior executives tend to be very resilient to stressors, many entrepreneurs thrive under stress and those who are conscientious use it as a driving force.

Of course, conscientiousness is not the only important attribute of a successful entrepreneur. Planning and hard work alone is not necessarily sufficient for a successful business. Any aspiring entrepreneur should consider their own conscientiousness; investors beware about investing an entrepreneur who is not conscientious.