Friday, 24 August 2007

What makes an entrepreneur - By: Stefan Enslin

John Caudwell set up the mobile phones group that includes the Phones 4U retail chain in 1987. He sold it for £1.4bn, making £1.2bn personally. “The one bit of advice that I would always give to people before they start a business is: to examine whether they have the six skills that you need to be really successful. They are ambition, drive, resilience, passion, commercial intellect and leadership.

Could you be an entrepreneur? 14 Important entrepreneurial characteristics of successful enterprise owners were identified by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by Jeffrey Timmons and colleagues which still frequently crop up in entrepreneurship research. Timmons admitted that few entrepreneurs would possess all traits but felt that strengths in one might compensate for weaknesses in others. Many of these characteristics are self-explanatory (such as high personal drive and energy, self-confidence and setting clear goals) and some appear to be linked. They are:

• drive and energy
• self-confidence
• high initiative and personal responsibility
• internal locus of control
• tolerance of ambiguity
• low fear of failure
• moderate risk taking
• long-term involvement
• money as a measure not merely an end
• use of feedback
• continuous pragmatic problem solving
• use of resources
• self-imposed standards
• clear goal setting

These characteristics appear consistently in other entrepreneurial research studies. For example, more than 20 years ago a study of Irish entrepreneurs identified achievement, persistence and self-confidence as general successful business characteristics as well as internal focus of control and commitment to the business, as the characteristics peculiar to entrepreneurs. Some of the qualities that people often find a bit obscure include tolerance of ambiguity and low fear of failure. Tolerance of ambiguity is the ability to accept contradictory or unexpected evidence of something while keeping an open mind. Low fear of failure can lead to pushy, goal-dominated behaviour but, in fact, is the opposite of need for achievement. The anxiety caused by the fear can sometimes be strong enough to cause the individual to deliberately bring about the failure that is feared.

So what does low fear of failure means? The way I see it is that the entrepreneur is prepared to risk things going wrong and can handle setbacks without being deterred. There are so many books out there that discuss the topic on how to be a successful entrepreneur or what makes an entrepreneur. I feel that it is very important to read these books and learn from the masters themselves. They have made a success as entrepreneurs and most of them made it not on their first or second attempt but on their third one. I have read an article on a businessman who has made millions on his sixth attempt. By then he had the knowledge and ability to avoid the unnecessary and to apply only what is good for the business.

Some people think that an entrepreneur is in business (or going into business) to do his own thing and to provide work for the unemployed. They don’t care on whether they make loads of money as long as they stay afloat. Whilst, in itself that might not be a problem, the way I see it: “you are in business for three reasons and that is to make money, to have fun & to make money” It is therefore important that you cannot forget the fact that the reason why you go into business is to make money. That I think is rule number one.

Entrepreneurs therefore have drive, passion, resilience and the attitude of “never say die”. I think it is important that you motivate yourself by trying to approach highly successful and reputable businessmen/woman and try and arrange interviews with them. Get to meet them and see how they think and what advise they can give you. I wrote a small autobiography, updated my CV and made up a letter template that I can use to send to these people that I would like to approach. I did my research on these people to make sure I know them better then they know themselves. People love it when you show interest. This has given me the drive and has helped me to refine business ideas to a point where I have chiselled away everything that might not work until I had only the final product.

Try and apply these trade marks and if you want to see whether you have the characteristics of an entrepreneur, I can highly recommend taking the entrepreneurial profile test from Rachel Elnaugh. Please visit her website at She will respond within 24 hours personally with your results.

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