Are Successful Entrepreneurs Born or Made? Both
Written by: Daniel Priestley
One of the most searched questions on Google about entrepreneurship is “are entrepreneurs born or made?”
I feel I’m in a good position to answer it.
I run an entrepreneur accelerator in the U.K., Australia and the U.S. We’ve had over 2500 entrepreneurs join our cohorts and since 2010 I’ve interviewed thousands of entrepreneurs who have applied for a position on the program.
I’ve also written four books on entrepreneurship and spoken at conferences around the world alongside some of the world’s most successful business leaders.
The answer is very clear to me, you must be born AND made. Let me address both aspects.
Born: Finding the thing that’s right for you.
Every successful entrepreneur is a born entrepreneur. The good news, however, is that there’s not one type of entrepreneur.
Oprah Winfrey would have made a terrible fund manager and Warren Buffet would have made a boring talk show host. Richard Branson would have failed as a software developer and Bill Gates would not have been able to run a cool music label.
Being a born entrepreneur is not about being born in a particular way, but it is about finding something that suits your nature.
There are entrepreneurs crushing it in areas as diverse as finance, entertainment, media, software, sport, engineering, aged care and childcare; this is why you’ll see extremely diverse personalities who all have the badge “entrepreneur”.
Successful entrepreneurs can be introverts, risk-averse, gregarious, shy, conservative, liberal, wildly optimistic or rather sceptical in their outlook. You could name almost any personality trait and I would be able to show you a successful entrepreneur who has it.
The key is to get a good fit with your personality and the venture you pursue. What works for someone else may be a disaster for you if your nature isn’t suited to that business.
There are just a few key exceptions of characteristics that I find are common to most entrepreneurs who make it.
The first is bravery; entrepreneurship does involve stepping into the unknown. Some entrepreneurs feel bravery a careful analysis, some feel emboldened after a well-received pitch that leaves people buzzing. However you get yourself to be brave, every entrepreneur must step outside of their comfort zone time and time again.
Secondly, successful entrepreneurs have a passion for what they do, beyond making money. Money is a great way of keeping score but if it’s only about the money the game of entrepreneurship will find a way of weeding you out. Many entrepreneurs make serious money after 10 years of struggle, if money is the only driver, a decade is an awfully long time to be waiting for your rewards.
The third unique characteristic of successful entrepreneurs is tenacity. This requires the ability to focus on things that make an impact for a longer amount of time than most people would. Successful entrepreneurs have a sixth sense as to the most meaningful problem that needs solving and they can stay with them for prolonged periods of time – sometimes decades.
Made: Developing the core skill of an entrepreneur.
After finding a business that fits with your nature, you have to develop one key skill – influencing others.
Whether it’s buying your product, joining your team or investing in your vision, you will need to influence the behaviour of others.
Running a business is a complex job that involves finance, sales, communications, intellectual property, product creation, organizational culture, marketing, systemization, technology deployment, branding and the list goes on.
No human is born with the ability to control their bladder so you can forget about the idea that an individual was born with these skills. This means that entrepreneurs can only succeed if they surround themselves with talented people who bring the resources needed.
Therefore the core skill of an entrepreneur is influence – enrolling people into using their time, creativity, expertise or resources in a way they hadn’t initially thought of. Fortunately, this core skill is a learned behaviour that you can and must develop.
In my experience, the core influencing skills are pitching, publishing, productizing, profile building and partnering. These five skills sit outside the usual set of technical skills we learn at school or university but they can be developed and improved like any other skill.
Are entrepreneurs born or made? Both. Entrepreneurs must find something they feel they are born to do and then develop the skills of enrolling people into their vision.