Entrepreneurs: are they born or bred?

The definition of an entrepreneur is ‘a person who makes money by starting new businesses’. However, this doesn’t seem to encompass the distinguishing characteristics that separate a person who owns a business, from someone we think of as entrepreneurial.

Published in Essex Director magazine, Summer|Autumn 2022

Talking Point: Entrepreneurial traits

Elon Musk (Tesla), Richard Branson (Virgin) and Michelle Mone (Ultimo), for instance, have all started businesses, but there is something about them that makes them different. Entrepreneurs come from all walks of life, but almost all of them share similar personality traits: passion, resilience, a strong sense of self-belief, flexibility and vision.

However, there are certain attributes and behaviours that are intrinsically entrepreneurial with the main one being you work for yourself.

Other entrepreneurial traits include…

you take risks: Entrepreneurs tend to thrive and feed on it and feel that without a certain element of risk, there is no reward. In their world, opportunities tend to be more indistinct than in a conventional business environment, but that’s what makes them fearless leaders and successful business owners.

… you never recognise failure: The determination and resolve to stick with an idea when they believe in it, is imperative for an entrepreneur. A lot of people don’t have what it takes to see a business through the tough times and perseverance is what makes a great entrepreneur. Walt Disney, Henry Ford and Simon Cowell were all declared bankrupt before going onto to enjoy great success.

… you ooze confidence: The best entrepreneurs believe they can map out their own future and they use this self-assurance to persuade people to invest in them. Entrepreneurs are also some of the most confident people around, and whether you like them or not, they all have big personalities.

you are a chameleon and a problem solver: Entrepreneurs are always able to adapt their approach quickly to face any challenges that arise. As well as being resourceful problem solvers, they are also curious and use this to innovate and drive the business forward.

… you are constantly on the move: Entrepreneurs are always on the go and are predominantly workaholics. They are always looking to the horizon to see what the next big thing might be, and then are eager to get on with developing an idea into a workable venture before someone beats them to it.

… you don’t do detail: But they are great at focusing on the ‘Bigger Picture’. Successful entrepreneurs can look to the future and will have a strategy of where they want to take their company. They will also have a plan on how they are going to get there.

… you are naturally rebellious: They see themselves as ‘disruptors’ and don’t take kindly to being told that there is a certain process you must follow to do the job correctly. This behaviour would perhaps have started early on in life, and they were probably labelled a ‘troublemaker’ at school.

… you feed on challenge: Whether in or outside of work, there is nothing that entrepreneurs like more than a challenge. Also, their boredom threshold is low, so whether it is an extreme sport, or being able to build a successful business from the ground up, maintaining that excitement is key.

… you must win ALL the time: Entrepreneurs have an undying drive to be the best at what they do, and if they can’t do it by playing by the rules, they will make up new rules to achieve success.

So, taking all the above into account, are you born an entrepreneur, or is it something anyone can learn, given the right education, experience and mentoring?

Whatever the answer, we have a responsibility to encourage entrepreneurship in our young people. Rather than treating ambition, desire, competitiveness and self-belief as unattractive characteristics, we should be empowering our future adults with the crucial personality traits they need to achieve success; whatever path they choose to take.

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