Entrepreneurship: Are People Born to Be Entrepreneurs?

Are People Born to Be Entrepreneurs?

Mike Armour

As a leadership coach, I'm often asked, "Are leaders born? Or do they become leaders through training and experience?"

Since I began Startups After 50, I'm now often asked a similar question about entrepreneurs. Are people born to be entrepreneurs? Or is it a skill that anyone can learn?

What Researchers Tell Us

You might be interested to know that there is actually impressive research on this subject. Nicos Nicolaou from the Cass Business School at London's City University and Scott Shane from Case Western Reserve University did the study. They found that inherent abilities — those you were seemingly born with — account for about 37% to 48% of entrepreneurial success.

This means that all entrepreneurs, whatever their natural talents, must learn the craft. Some people simply have a larger head start than others. They come into this world with personality traits that are strongly aligned with entrepreneurial effectiveness.

Your own observations, no doubt, have already made you aware of this truth. Any of us who have had more than one child or grandchild know that no two of them came into the world with the same personality. Some are greater risk-takers than others. Some are more energetic, more sociable, more adept at making new friends than their peers. And these very qualities are among those that foster an entrepreneur's success.

Ten Essential Traits

Even if you were not one of these lucky ones born with "entrepreneurial genes," it doesn't mean that you are doomed to disappointment in building a business. You merely have to be more purposeful than others in acquiring the full range of skills, abilities, and habits that will enlarge your potential for success.

And what are these skills and habits? Well, that question has also been studied in depth. This time by the Gallup organization. Based on lengthy research with 2500 highly successful entrepreneurs, Gallup identified ten characteristics which typically set them apart from their less successful counterparts. Here is a quick summary of those ten abilities.

  • Business Focus: Your decisions are consistently built around ways to improve the bottom line, whether by reducing expenses or increasing revenue.
  • Confidence: You are sure of yourself in interpersonal exchanges because you have a high degree of self-awareness (so that you fully know yourself) and you understand others and what makes them tick.
  • Creative Thinking: You are imaginative in finding ways to improve, enhance, or enlarge on the success of an idea or product, whether it's an idea or product which you created yourself or one that you learn about.
  • Delegation: You can create synergy by releasing control of things that others can do for you, freeing you to do more of the things which you uniquely contribute to the success of an endeavor.
  • Determination: You are not easily dissuaded by obstacles that loom in your way, even those which may seem insurmountable, choosing instead to overcome them through perseverance.
  • Independence: You are eager to shoulder personal responsibility for whatever is required to build a successful business.
  • Seeking Knowledge: You are on a constant quest for insights, information, or concepts which could help you grow your business.
  • Promotion: You excel as a spokesperson for your business, bringing a passion and enthusiasm to your promotional activity that sets you and your enterprise apart.
  • Relationship-Building: You easily engage people in social and business situations, continually expanding the network which can further your company's growth.
  • Risk-Taking: You intuitively recognize appropriate risks and are not afraid to undertake them, even when the level of risk may be rather elevated.

If you were to survey past issues of this inbox magazine, you would find that I've written regularly about most, if not all of these themes. They are essential skills for encore entrepreneurs — or any entrepreneur, for that matter.

If you're interested in an impartial assessment of how well you stack up against these ten requirements, Gallup used their research to develop an assessment that is called the Entrepreneurial Profile, previously known as the Entrepreneurial Strengths-Finder. It costs $12 to complete.

You might find this a worthwhile investment, since it will not only identify where your strengths are at present, it will also show you where you could make valuable improvements.

Incidentally, I am not compensated for recommending this product. My only motivation is to make readers aware of tools that can improve their odds of success as an encore entrepreneur.

This article first appeared in Encore Entrepreneur inbox magazine on March 18, 2015.

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