Back in the so called "olden" days of my youth, I never knew or used the term "entrepreneur". Within the past several years, the word is becoming far more common and it often appears in print. However, entrepreneurs themselves were most prominent and served as an essential backbone to the world economy and contributed substantially to the way of life for people everywhere.

It was September 1951 and it was the first year of my teaching career. My first teaching assignment was a fifth grade classroom and most of the students were nine and ten years of age. I was privileged to have twenty-nine students; all were pleasant, most were eager learners and great classroom helpers. They were a real joy and I appreciate each and everyone of them.

Each student stood out for the uniqueness of their own personality. Take Patty for example, she was quiet, organized, very passionate in what she did, and well-liked by everyone. Ray was bright, jovial, everyone's friend, and always inventive in the ways he approached a problem. And then there was Don....energetic, systematic in his thinking, loved the out- of- doors and had a great passion for the use of tools to build, repair, or design something tangible and useful. And the other 26 students were also very unique and talented in their own ways. But for our purposes here...let us stay with the three I have specifically characterized.

Later in life, Patty took over her father's small fledgling almost failing construction business and built it into one of the most successful construction enterprises in our region. Patty... a marvelous success story! And then Ray. Ray studied mechanical engineering and became a well know designer of complex water pump engines and established a well known company in the production and distribution of these systematized engines...what an accomplishment! And next, Don. Don bought a large truck and began to haul merchandise for customers. His business began to grow and another truck was purchased. Today, Don is the Chairman of the Board of a major trucking concern.... what an achievement!

Truly, these three, and so many others in our society have been and are the backbone of entrepreneurial talent!

What characteristics do these successful entrepreneurs seem to have in common? To cite several characteristics, among other attributes, we headline tenacity, passion, dedication, vision, work satisfaction, and a rock solid reputation.

Tenacity seems to be so key. Much of entrepreneurship seems to be working through actions which find success, and failure as well. Failure does not mean that all is lost. When failure happens, one must start over again until just the right balance is realized. For perseverance may mean failing ten times and success on the eleventh time. When everything seems to be going against one, we remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. That is what generates the lift. So it is with things in life and in the world of work.

Passion falls right in line with tenacity. Most successful entrepreneurs are fueled by a passion for their product or service, by the opportunity to solve a problem and make life easier, better, and more economically feasible. Passion is the word! When one catches a glimpse of one's potential, that's when passion is born. Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity. Once something is a passion, the motivation is there.

And Vision is so key. It is one of the defining traits of entrepreneurship. It is the ability to spot an opportunity. The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, and your vision.Entrepreneurs have a curiosity that identifies overlooked niches and puts them at the forefront of innovation and emerging fields. They imagine another potential in the possibility range and they have the ability to communicate that vision to others. Most entrepreneurs are ahead of the market and they know what folks need and feel. You know, people will forget what we say, they will not remember what we did, but they will always remember how we made them feel. A vision about what we can do to be of help to others...that is key!

Self-satisfaction and hard work are essential. When one enjoys what they are doing and works hard at it, in all likelihood, it is safe to assume that will be reflected in the success of an entrepreneur. In fact, if one does not enjoy what it is they do and works hard at it, chances for success are minimal.

Credibility and a rock-solid reputation are a must. A good reputation is something one cannot buy, it must be earned. Consistency and follow-through are essential. A rock solid reputation is built upon thrust. And success in any entrepreneurial acclivity is built on the rock of others having trust in the individual entrepreneur.

It is true, Only recently has the word "entrepreneur" had such a powerful meaning for this writer. And the powerful concepts of tenacity, passion, vision, hard work, satisfaction, and personal reputation stand out as the bulwark of our free enterprise system. We are proud of our American free enterprise system and all for which it stands. Entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds are a major contributor to this exceptional American way of life. We cannot help but pay genuine tribute to American Exceptionalism at its best!