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Sunday, 10 April 2016

Are Entrepreneurs Made or Born? Attitude and Skills are Both Vital!

I was recently honoured to be interviewed and quoted in a very interesting new book, “Found” by Dr Naveen Lakkur and Dr Liz Alexander (available on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).  The basis of the book is transforming your unlimited ideas into one sustainable business. 

It draws on a deal of experience to show how businesses can be built and grown sustainably.  My contribution included some thoughts on entrepreneurship and this has led me to discuss the whole subject today.

There is no question in my mind that entrepreneurs who create and sustain successful businesses combine great ideas with their own blend of passion, commitment, personal values and strengths.

Indeed they often exhibit a huge level of emotional attachment to the business that is almost like having surrogate children.  In fact if that commitment and dedication is not there then I can't see how it would work.

I had a member of my Vistage CEO peer group who had started his working life in his parents' baby wear shop. A customer asked him if he could supply a one-piece rain cover for the pushchair as the current three-piece version was difficult to use.

He could have said, "There isn't one on the market" and no one would have been any the wiser. Instead he went off, designed one, manufactured it and told the customer. She was delighted and told all her friends.

The result was that a new business was born and was rightly successful.

Success came about through a combination of innate curiosity, a strong belief in his own abilities and a desire to create something new for a market that he knew well. There was a magic blend of positive personal characteristics and an eminently marketable idea.

Unsurprisingly then I always tend to look for this combination of talents in people whom I am mentoring. It is never just about making money.  Most of them look upon material rewards as the effect or symptom of the cause and it is that which delivers the greater satisfaction.

They feel that the act of creation, whether overt or hidden, is exciting, is enjoyable and delivers a strong sense of achievement.

They also exhibit a dogged persistence, a sort of bloody-minded intention to succeed whatever obstacles are in the way together with a strong conviction that what they are doing is right.

It is said that Thomas Edison tried 1,000 experiments before the final successful incandescent light bulb emerged.  When asked how he could live with all that perceived constant failure he said that they weren't failure, they were 1,000 lessons that had to be learnt.

The question to ask then is whether entrepreneurs are born or made? Is it a matter of nature or nurture?

In my somewhat chequered past I ran a Government sponsored training course for unemployed executives called "Start and Run Your Own Business" and it really opened my eyes.

It has been suggested that 80% of start-up businesses fail in the first year through underfunding, a lack of marketing expertise, lack of financial expertise and overall lack of good commercial common sense.

In fact all of those skills can be taught and developed which removes a multiplicity of excuses for failure.  The factors for success are much more dependent on feelings and emotion.

Of course success depends eventually on both the skills and the emotional attachment being present in any entrepreneurial business. If the leader doesn't have a lot indeed any of the skills then the clever thing to do is to bring them in and make sure that the team is well aware of here the business is going; that they know what success looks like.

An entrepreneur who can build a team of all the talents with the requisite skills and overlay a layer of commitment, dedication and above all, passion will have constructed an enterprise much more likely to be sustainable.

The key is to accept that nobody knows everything so the ball must be passed to the right person in the right job and that takes humility on the part of the leader.   Not easy to achieve but potentially dramatic in the consequential success of the business.

It needs to be a working amalgam of skills and attitude; of nurture and nature.

You can download my book"Leading to Success" from Amazon
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