Long ago I was on a committee asked to create a survey that would determine whether a loan applicant was an entrepreneur or not – I quit the committee that day. I have always leaned on the “made” side of the “born versus made” debate feeling that life experiences played a big role in determining an individual’s likelihood the act entrepreneurial. We all know an entrepreneur when we see one; we have also bumped into struggling small business leaders who have none of the required traits. I did some digging to see if I could find a definition that we can all use to identify key traits that every entrepreneur needs to be successful, no matter what the industry.
Academic researchers have been theorizing new frameworks since French economist Richard Cantillon coined the concept of the entrepreneur in 1723. Over the next couple of centuries entrepreneurs have been defined as economic agents, innovators, visionaries, profit producers, product producers, creators, owners, leaders, opportunity chasers and risk takers. It gets pretty confusing because maybe you fit each category and maybe you fit just a few – or maybe none at all yet you are still leading a successful venture.
I sorted through reams of academic prose and settled on a set of characteristics that I think are must haves:
An entrepreneur must be an innovator: An innovator is all about new stuff, introducing new products, new processes, new marketing methods, new hiring practices – you name it. Customers want new and different. Unless you are a barber, find a way to add value differently for a stakeholder group, that’s what makes you interesting. Big ideas are new ideas, new ideas are big ideas.
An entrepreneur must be a risk taker: Safe doesn’t always work and “because we always did it that way” definitely doesn’t work. Take a risk, but one that you can afford. Radical price changes or a wholesale shift in your target market should be left to the experienced, but throwing 20% of your marketing budget at a whole new media or trying an employee incentive for the next month and monitoring changes in behavior is doable.
An entrepreneur must be proactive: There are lots of “ready, aim, aim, aim…” leaders out there – you need to be a pull the trigger type. Failure is an option but see trait 2 above to calculate your comfort level. This is especially true if you have employees – pulling the trigger gives you control, do your homework to assure the decision is a good one and then go for it.
If you take a risk by making innovation happen, feel good about placing “proud entrepreneur” on your business card.
This article was written by Marc Compeau from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.