Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The 500 Hats of Entrepreneurship

I’ll be honest. After working with entrepreneurs for the last 25 years, I didn’t need any scientific study to tell me that there is a difference (or really many differences) between entrepreneurs and employees. Nonetheless, these recent studies did reveal some interesting insights about some of the key personality traits of successful entrepreneurs.

The new study expanded on the conclusions of existing research (completed at Stanford University), which concluded that an individual with a broader portfolio of experiences (a “jack-of-all-trades”) has a stronger disposition toward entrepreneurship than one who is a specialist. The new study showed that those with a diverse network of relationships (both personal and professional), coupled with diverse experiences, were actually the ones likely to become entrepreneurs.

Apparently, it isn’t enough to have either a lot of different experiences or many different relationships. Essentially, the conclusion is that having both a diversity of experiences and a diversity of contacts (so called “double-diversity”) is likely to lead someone to entrepreneurship. 

Given my interaction with hundreds of entrepreneurs, I’m not surprised by this conclusion. My clients often wear so many hats that they rival Bartholomew Cubbins. It also seems that those who are able to effectively juggle all of the different roles (cheerleader, coach, connector, founder, 
fundraiser, manager, marketer, etc.) are more likely to be successful.

The studies also concluded that successful entrepreneurs are:

  • Conscientious—something that I’ve consistently seen in my practice
  • “Outrageously” self-confident—this isn’t surprising. Given the risks of entrepreneurship and the failure rate for small businesses, it would be hard to start a new enterprise if you didn’t think you were the one who had the traits needed to succeed.  Interestingly, other data shows that:
                  o Entrepreneurs think they can prevent things from going wrong with 
                        their businesses
                  o Over a third of entrepreneurs believe they have guaranteed success 
                  o They even think they will live longer than everyone else!  (I hope this is also 
                        true about the entrepreneurial lawyers who represent them…)

The one surprise to me was learning that research shows successful entrepreneurs are “disagreeable.” Honestly, I’ve seen more success among the entrepreneurs who are collaborative, affable, and have high EQ than those I’d label as disagreeable. Given all the other challenges to success, I think it helps to have others pulling for you, rather than secretly (or openly) hoping for your failure.

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