Are successful entrepreneurs made or born?

Before answering this question we would need to start with an understanding of what an entrepreneur is.

Entrepreneurs are all over the map, which makes the question particularly difficult to navigate.

There is the 14-year-old girl who goes to the local supermarket, buys 100 bottles of water for seven rand each, then sells them at the beach for a fourteen rands a pop. Scale that every day for a summer and you can pay for university registration fees.

Or the 7-time venture-backed software geek who finds a niche, gets some funding, builds it out with a trusted team, sells it for $100 million in shares and then starts again.

Perhaps we are talking about a non-profit entrepreneur, a woman who builds a useful asset, finds a scalable source of funding and changes the world as she does.

The mistake that is easy to make is based in language. We say, “she’s an entrepreneur,” when we should be saying, “she’s acting like an entrepreneur.

Since entrepreneurship is a verb, an action, a posture… then of course, it is a choice.

You might not want to act like one, but if you can model behavior, you can act like one.

And what do people do when they are acting like entrepreneurs?

1. They make decisions.

2. They invest in activities and assets that are not a sure thing.

3. They persuade others to support a mission with a non-guaranteed outcome.

4. This one is the most fluid, the most difficult to pin down and thus the juiciest: They embrace [instead of run away from] the work of doing things that might not work.

As far as I can tell, that’s it. Everything else you can hire.

Buying into an existing business by buying a franchise, to pick one example, there is very little of any of the four elements of entrepreneurial behaviour.

Yes, you are swinging for a bigger win, you are investing risk capital, you are going outside the traditional mainstream. But what you are doing is buying a proven business, not acting like an entrepreneur.

With a franchise, the four elements are not really there. It is a process instead. Nothing wrong with that.

All four of these elements are unnatural to most people. Particularly if you were good at school, you are not good at this. No right answers, no multiple choice, no findable bounds.

It is easy to get hung up on the “risk taking” part of it, but if you are acting like an entrepreneur, you don’t feel like you are taking a huge risk.

Risks are what happens at a casino, where you have little control over the outcome.

People acting like entrepreneurs, however, feel as though the four most important elements of their work [see above] are well within their control.

If you are hoping someone can hand you a Dummies guide, giving you the quick steps, the guaranteed method, the way to turn this process into a job, well, you have just announced that you don’t feel like acting like an entrepreneur.

But before you walk away from it, give it a try. Entrepreneurial behaviour is not about scale, it is about a desire for a certain kind of journey.

At Lora Centre we are starting our New Venture Creation programme where we will discussing these and other aspects of the entrepreneurial behaviour.

The programme starts this coming Saturday [23 January 2021], if you are keen to part of the programme, kindly register on our website:

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