1. Home
  2.  / Have You Got What It Takes?

Have You Got What It Takes?

There are behaviours that mean some people are more likely to make a go of their business. Otherwise they may struggle. Chris Small, managing director of ABC Business Sales, shares the keys to success.

18 October 2021

Have you always dreamed of running your own business and becoming an overnight millionaire when you sell it?

Many people dream of this scenario, and many will have the right temperament and the right skills to make the dream come true.

At ABC Business Sales, we analysed the 400-plus business sales we do each year and came up with the top traits we saw in the most successful business owners.

People skills

I find the most important and common trait of successful business owners is their ability to relate to people and build relationships. I call this trait ‘people skills’.

People with these skills can communicate effectively and decisively, be charming and affable, and they’re easy to deal with and talk to.

Business owners all have customers, suppliers, and staff.

If you can build strong and long-lasting relationships with all these people, your probability of operating a successful business is a lot higher.

Drive and structure

To grow any business, you need a drive to forge ahead and succeed, backed by a structured approach.

Both? Yes. Drive and structure are joined at the hip and can’t live without each other.

A business owner needs the drive and motivation to get up early, work long hours, and make the tough decisions.

But this quality needs to be supported by structured goals and targets, so all this energy is channelled into the right areas at the right times.

We all know people who work hard and put in the long hours. But if they’re not working in the right areas, they’ll get a below-par result.

As a business owner, you don’t have the luxury of channelling work into the wrong areas.

To be successful, all your hard work needs to be spent on the correct areas of the company.

Money skills

I see often that being budget and financially minded is something the most successful business owners have in spades.

In today’s world, business success is very much viewed in tandem with financial success.

To achieve financial success and see healthy profits, you need to have a clear understanding of what your current financial position is, and the actions you need to take to improve this position.

Make numbers your friend

You’ll need to be able to understand and interpret basic financial statements like a Profit and Loss statement (P&L) and balance sheets, so you know just where your money is going and the profit you’re making.

Yes, it is possible to employ staff who have these skills, but if we’re talking about the very best business owners, they’re all very financially literate. It’s a skill set I believe is super-important in today’s business world.


Resilience is talked about a lot these days and I see this quality very often among elite business owners.

Also called ‘bounce’, resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties – to bounce back.

Business ownership is the most rewarding career you can have when everything is going well, but it can be hugely disappointing when you experience setbacks.

When you face tough times and setbacks, it becomes personal and you have no one else to blame, unlike if you worked for a big corporate when it’s always the company’s fault.

People who can accept failure and mistakes, and can bounce back and come back even stronger make fantastic business owners.


Confidence is associated with many highly successful people across all industries – sportspeople, actors, musicians, business owners, and politicians.

The interesting thing about confidence is how it can spread through an organisation and the effect it has on staff morale and culture.

Successful business owners all have confidence in their own ability, which lets them make quick and definitive decisions.

This gives them a competitive advantage and makes them easy to work with.

No barriers to entry

If you feel that you have many, or all, of these traits, owning a business might be a great career path.

The best thing about becoming a business owner is that there are no barriers to entry. You don’t need any qualifications – and if you have the right attributes and traits, the likelihood is you will be successful.

Prior business experience is more important than any formal qualification, but every business is different, so previous experience is not as relevant as having the right personality and skills.

Some role models

Let’s look at the kind of people I’ve seen do well when they bought a business.

One Air New Zealand pilot bought an engraving business, and two ex-pat professionals bought a plant nursery.

In both these cases, previous work history and qualifications were irrelevant.

It was their ability to build relationships, work hard, deal with difficult situations, and understand the financial aspects of their businesses that has helped them prosper in the world of business ownership.

At ABC, we keep records of all the businesses we sell.

  • 98 per cent of businesses we sell continue under new ownership.
  • A small minority (just 2 per cent) end up closing or are liquidated.

The numbers are almost the opposite for business start-ups, where the news is not good.

  • 90 per cent of start-ups fail in the first two years.
  • Only 10 per cent are still running two years later.

Take the plunge

If you have the right skills and character for business ownership, don’t wait.

People tell us again and again that it’s the most financially and emotionally rewarding decision they’ve ever made in their working career. They wish they’d done it sooner.

You can boost your chances of success if you buy an existing business and have the right personality traits.

I’m talking from experience. Four years ago, I was working at a bank on a salary and now I’m an owner and the Managing Director of ABC Business Sales. It’s been the best career decision of my life.

Get in touch

It’s our job at ABC Business Sales to match buyers with the right business, so everyone gets a great outcome.

If you’re thinking of buying or selling, go to www.abcbusiness.co.nz, email chriss@abcbusiness.co.nz or call (0800) 180 222.

Informed Investor's content comes from sources that Informed Investor magazine considers accurate, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. Charts in Informed Investor are visually indicative, not exact. The content of Informed Investor is intended as general information only, and you use it at your own risk.


Related Articles