The Tanoto Foundation, established by self-made Indonesian entrepreneur Sukanto Tanoto and his wife, funds a wide range of programs that benefit underserved people in Indonesia and other parts of the world. Among Mr. Tanoto’s most significant philanthropic efforts is the foundation’s Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series. This regular lecture program offers first-person insights into entrepreneurship through discussions with some of Indonesia’s top-performing businesspersons. Among the frequent topics addressed during the series is the question of what qualities are necessary to get ahead, and stay ahead, as an entrepreneur.
Sukanto Tanoto built up a small family business into today’s $15 billion RGE Group, and is today one of Indonesia’s richest individuals. He and other entrepreneurial leaders who have spoken to students through the Tanoto Entrepreneurship Series have described the values and characteristics a good entrepreneur should possess:
A balanced vision. A successful entrepreneur knows how to reach toward the future by creating a vision of what his or her company can and should be. Yet that same entrepreneur will also concentrate on the day-to-day decisions that constitute the practical steps toward achieving that vision.
An awareness of opportunities. A successful businessperson takes chances and has an open mind that is alert to the possibilities that others might not notice. In order to take that initiative to the next level, however, he or she will need to practice careful strategic planning.
A questioning mind. A good entrepreneur never stops questioning the status quo—even one that he or she helped to establish—and takes advantage of every chance to learn something new.
A long-term approach. Making well-considered sacrifices for the sake of the overall goal of long-term success is among the chief traits that distinguish successful entrepreneurs. Strategic investments of personal and corporate time, energy, and talent are likely to yield significant rewards in the future of a company.
Other business leaders around the world have cited other defining characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, such as self-motivation, a willingness to take risks, a focus on customer service, a readiness to learn from mistakes, and a personal commitment to integrity.