Copyright, Nicholas A. Bibby, all rights reserved.
Entrepreneurship has touched my entire life. The
sum total of self-employed parents and grandparents, personal ventures,
topped by an adult life of counseling and consulting with countless
entrepreneurs made a profound impact on me personally and professionally.
Because it is the human side of business that I find most interesting,
I have used life experiences as a foundation to form fairly strong opinions
on entrepreneurship and the personalities that drive it. What follows
is a very abbreviated version of an earlier discussion published on
entrepreneurial focus, but it makes the point none the less about the
personality of the entrepreneur.
If asked to define an entrepreneur, the words most
often chosen are motivated, focused, confident, aggressive, dominant,
leader, etc. While these adjectives taken collectively may accurately
describe some entrepreneurs, they certainly do not describe all entrepreneurs.
In fact, short of saying that all entrepreneurs work for themselves,
it is as foolish to define them as one personality type as it is to
say that all athletes, students or employees are the same. A business
owner need not be aggressive or dominant, although they might happen
to have those traits.
Answer the following questions and decide for yourself
if entrepreneurs are essentially the same. Is a happy, successful franchisee
the same type of entrepreneur as the franchisor from whom they bought
their business? Is the consultant the same type of entrepreneur as the
founder of a high tech, innovative manufacturing firm? Is the grocer
the same type of entrepreneur as the multi-unit regional franchise owner?
No, they are all different. The concept of entrepreneurial type is a
stand-alone discussion and I will offer it another time as a separate
article, but I refer to it here because acknowledging the presence of
different entrepreneurial types helps us accept sub-sets of entrepreneurs.
It is the first step toward defining real differences among them.
For the general population with little or no interest
in the subject, the fact that all entrepreneurs cannot be forced into
one mold is really not an issue. But, for students of the subject, and
especially for people considering, or actually pursuing an entrepreneurial
lifestyle, grasping the nature of the ownership personality can be critical
to one’s success or failure.
OK, ask the obvious question. “Nick, are going
to get to the point and define the entrepreneurial personality, or are
you trying to say that it really can’t be defined?” Ah,
good for you, you want to cut to the chase. Here’s the answer,
at least as I see it, and frankly it is a very simple one.
Of course there is an entrepreneurial personality,
the rhetoric was to clear the air and allow us to start with a clean
All entrepreneurs can be properly defined by one
special trait, but that trait is not focus, confidence, aggression,
dominance, leadership, intelligence, integrity, or loyalty. Any or all
of those traits can be found in hourly employees, corporate executives,
teachers, or any other population.
The one element that separates entrepreneurs from
all others is their extra measure of “independent spirit.”
Further, you will find that the successful entrepreneur
displays a natural executive talent in conjunction with their powerful
need for independence. Why natural executive talent? Because the need
for independence must be accompanied by the ability to plan as well
as execute the plan. Without that, the drive for independence could
not be harnessed and realized.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples in
which independence rules the day.
The owner of your locally owned auto repair shop
is most likely an ex-auto dealer or service station employee. However,
the need for independence created the desire for ownership, and executive
skills allowed the implementation of the ownership plan. The fact that
the person is a skilled mechanic is irrelevant except that knowledge
is required to operate the business. If this person were not driven
by an independent spirit to own a business, they would have stayed at
the dealership, and at best, “dreamed” of ownership. Such
is the independence of an entrepreneur.
The owner of your local franchised print shop is
most likely an ex-corporate manager who was downsized and decided to
buy a job rather than tempt the corporate roller coaster again, or a
frustrated executive who craved independence. However, this person was
probably faced with the same problem that most corporate types face.
Generally they do not have marketable trade skills that complement their
administrative skills. The mechanic had knowledge of their business,
but the corporate employee had to buy the required knowledge from a
franchisor. Hail franchising.
The list of examples goes on and on, but no more
Of course, there are varying degrees of independence
and varying degrees of executive talent, but those issues are associated
with the different entrepreneurial “types” mentioned above.
The key point is that entrepreneurs are different from other people
and non-entrepreneurs cannot fully come to terms with that difference
because they are not driven by the same need for independence. A different
“feeling” exists inside. The banker, government administrator,
or teacher who works with the entrepreneur may understand the business
they are advising on, but they do not understand the entrepreneur’s
heart, and therefore cannot apply their advice directly to or for the
business owner. A gap exists that is real, and that gap generally creates
a divide between the entrepreneur and the rest of the world that is
difficult to bridge. Less than 10% of us are involved in some type of
entrepreneurial venture; the other 90% does not live in, or understand
that world. I might understand that NASCAR drivers love speed, but I
could never understand what that need for speed “feels”
like. If I was a good mechanic, which I am not, I might be able to give
the driver better tools to work with, but only the driver would have
the ability to apply those tools. It is the application or implementation
of tools and systems that requires the “hands-on” person.
Coaching, teaching and advising are NOT the same as doing, and that
point is often missed in the business of serving and helping entrepreneurs.
The entrepreneurial personality is driven by independence
and supported by varying degrees of knowledge and executive skills.
Further, it is the varying level of each of those traits that determines
Next up will be a discussion of entrepreneurial
types and then the elements associated with success and failure.
Nicholas Bibby, MBA and MA Counseling is a “franchise consultant” specializing in due diligence for those interested in “buying a franchise” and guidance for successful entrepreneurs when “franchising a business.”