Entrepreneurialism: squeezed into the genes?

45% of entrepreneurs start their businesses after 30. But it seems they're made not born...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
At least that’s according to ‘Nature or nurture: Decoding the entrepreneur’, an investigation by Ernst & Young into the characteristics common among people who set up their own businesses.

So are they all stubborn old-school market-stall types following their folks into getting their hands dirty? Not quite. Sixty percent of respondents described themselves as ‘transitioned’ entrepreneurs – meaning they worked in a corporate environment before plotting their own course. And when it comes to where they picked up their skills, a third cited their experiences of being an employee in such an organisation.

‘Nurture not nature does appear to be more important in shaping the entrepreneurial mindset,’ said Maria Pinelli, Ernst & Young’s vice chair of strategic growth markets. ‘Entrepreneurial leaders are defined as much by their early business experience, cultural background and external environment, as they are by any innate personal characteristics.’

So it seems that if you’re yet to take the plunge and wondering whether you really have it in you to go it alone, then that should be relatively easy to measure – starting a business is more about what you’ve done than who you are. But you may want to hold off buying that desk-lamp, calculator and eBay account: entrepreneurs do tend to have certain traits in common.

Three quarters of the respondents identified ‘having a vision’ as the most important quality of an entrepreneurial leader, followed by ‘passion’ at 73% and ‘drive’ at 64%. We're no great fans of the p-word, given that these days you're meant to be 'passionate' about everything, even wash room facilities. Still, it featured far higher than flexibility, relentless focus on quality and loyalty, which came in at 33%, 18% and 14% respectively.

‘They tend to be optimists and believe they can succeed despite the fact that everyone else is telling them they cannot,’ said Pinelli. And those are handy traits to have in any field of work these days, whether you’re pulling the strings or not…

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