Characteristics of successful internet entrepreneurs


I’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling recently which has given me the chance to catch up on some podcasts. They’re a great way to learn something new when there is nothing else going on except motorway tarmac or air stewardesses trying to sell you over priced drinks.

Most podcasts are interviews with people who have achieved some level of online success and listening to a number of these back to back I started to get a picture of characteristics they all have in common.

Before I go through these though if you are new to SEO podcasting I’d recommend the following as ‘not too techie’ options:

So what do most of the people who guest on these podcasts have in common. It’s not that they are super-organized, exercise regularly, sleep eight hours a night, drink a veggie shake every morning, blah, blah. In fact its often the opposite.

1. They are humble

This is key and it is sometimes surprising to hear it when listening to someone who graduated from a top university and built a multi-million dollar online business. You would expect a person like that to feel that they know it all and that they are generally great.

What really struck me is how grounded most guests were. Despite what they may have achieved (little or large) they were deeply aware of their limitations be that in the skills they did not have or the areas where they were lacking such as time management.

2. They admit what they don’t know

Its one thing to know what you don’t know, it is another thing to admit it. In the extraordinarily wide world of SEO and Online Marketing very few, if any, people know it all as new products and techniques pop up every day and search engines constantly evolve how they work.

But we are often afraid that admitting we don’t know something is a sign of weakness. It will lose us clients (or at least not help us gain any).

However it was clear in these interviews that the interviewee saw such admissions as strengths. Well I believe they do because they were very confident to say stuff like, “Oh I wasn’t aware of that” or “That isn’t something I know a whole lot about but I need to be getting my head around it” or “That’s a good idea I hadn’t thought of that”.

By default this brings me on to …

3. They admit that they are learning

If you can recognize that you are never a ‘SEO Guru’ ( and no one really is so avoid those who claim to be ) because there is an awful lot you don’t know then you can do one of two things. Fold your arms and decide that you know what you know and that’ll do or accept that there is a lot of stuff you still need to learn.

In the modern world this is true of many professions but a surprising amount of professionals don’t think they need to learn anymore. If you’ve just graduated from Harvard what more can you learn? A lot is the answer, learning is life long these days as technology and thinking make their leaps and bounds.

4. They’re not too proud to seek help

You simply can’t learn everything in the world of Online Marketing but pride stops many from taking the vital step of saying, “I know this can be done but I don’t have time to learn how so I need to ask someone to help me”. Again it can sound like a sign of weakness – are you too stupid to learn? Really it is a sign of strength in recognizing your own limitations but then making sure that they don’t get in the way of what you want to achieve.

5. They’re open about mistakes they have made

The old saying goes “A person who never made mistakes never made anything” and when you look more closely at most entrepreneurs, in the SEO field or not, you’ll find their history is littered with mistakes and disasters. Ideas which seemed so great but were monumental flops.

Mistakes and failures are never an issue if you can walk away from them having learnt something. The real mistake is the common reaction of trying to bury the whole thing and hide your embarrassment about being involved in a cock up.

Whatever caused the failure should be something you can carry forward so you avoid a repetition and if you can do that then you should actually be proud of your failures. Sometimes even a financial failure is not a complete waste. You may have made new contacts or learnt new skills which turn out to be invaluable in the long run.

The podcast guests I listened to thought very much along these lines even if they didn’t say so explicitly. They didn’t need to because you could feel it by the openness with which they described past projects which, with hindsight, should never have seen the light of day.

6. They know that there is no silver bullet for every situation

You might need to listen a bit more closely to get this one but the phrase you hear over and over again is “That didn’t work for us”. It is a clear recognition that whatever product or approach they are talking about is not a magic solution in every case but that doesn’t mean they can conclude it is 100% bad or ineffective.

They might have lost a lot of money because of it but they don’t blame it or slag it off. Whatever they used didn’t work in their particular situation but by definition this does not mean it wouldn’t work in a different scenario.

Its no different to hitting your thumb with a hammer when it was the nail you were aiming for. There is nothing wrong with the hammer, you just didn’t use it right.

By knowing this they also know that their approach which led to the success they are known for isn’t going to be right for everyone. They talk about what they did but never go on to say “That’s all you need to do and success is guaranteed”. In fact anyone claiming that any technique or product ‘guarantees’ success is as far away from a SEO expert that you can get.

What they are not

In all the interviews I have ever listened to no one ever talks about the often touted characteristics such as time management, diet, set routines, etc. Often the opposite is true and many of these people are open about their frailties. In one podcast (I forget which one and couldn’t write it down as I was driving!) the guest talks about his Bipolar Disorder.

The constant bouts of Manic Depression followed by Hyper Optimism were things that made him get where he got to, not barriers that stopped his progress.

Its a great reminder that these ‘experts’ are not super-human in some way. They are people just like you or I. What sets them apart is their ability to avoid seeing setbacks as disasters but as steps that will somehow help in the long run.