The first Tenet of Entrepreneurship posits that ANYONE can become an entrepreneur; that is, entrepreneurial skills, traits and tendencies are not innate, but rather are learned.
Entrepreneurial tendencies etc. are influenced by a number of factors, including:
It is impossible to provide a universal characterisation of the “entrepreneurial type”. Entrepreneurial tendencies recognise no cultural, social, political nor temporal boundaries. Indeed, history is replete with examples of entrepreneurs springing from all walks of life, in all industries, with varying motivations and degrees of success.
Some generalisations can, however, be drawn. Entrepreneurs tend to be achievement-oriented, revel in taking responsibility for projects and decisions and have a distinct dislike for work involving repetitive tasks. Entrepreneurs embrace change, as they realise that with change (even chaos) comes opportunity. They revere flexibility, individualism and opportunism.
Childhood environment / role models
Numerous studies have explored the implications of ‘birth order’ (i.e. first born, second born etc.) on entrepreneurial abilities. It is commonly believed that, as first born children receive special attention (enjoying, as they do, a ‘monopoly’, if only short-lived, on their parent’s time), they therefore build greater self-confidence. However more recent studies offer contradictory conclusions.
The employment history of a child’s parents is a confirmed influence – a disproportionate percentage of entrepreneurs have self-employed or entrepreneurial parents (especially fathers).
Even where parents are not self-employed or entrepreneurs themselves, parents that encourage independence, achievement and responsibility tend to instill the desirability of entrepreneurial pursuits in their children.
Other role models – siblings, relatives and other entrepreneurs – are also important influences, especially where they play a mentoring role during and after the launch of the business.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that entrepreneurs tend to be less educated than the general population. Almost everyone has a story to tell of a self-made businessperson that dropped out of school early and went on to earn his or her fortune.
However, this is by no means the “norm”. Education is important for successful entrepreneurship, as it helps entrepreneurs deal with the challenges and obstacles they are likely to encounter along the way.
A formal education is by no means necessary, but it certainly helps, especially where it is related to the entrepreneur’s future endeavour.
Most entrepreneurs embark on their entrepreneurial careers between the ages of 22 and 45. Certainly, individuals have launched their first entrepreneurial endeavour outside this age bracket. They are an exception to the rule, as entrepreneurs require a degree of experience, financial backing and sheer energy not often found outside this group.
Some research has shown that there are “milestone” ages – 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45 – at which entrepreneurs are most likely to start their first endeavour (a case, perhaps, of “it’s now or never”).
Prior entrepreneurial experience(s) clearly plays a role.
Many entrepreneurs become “serial entrepreneurs”, launching or buying a number of businesses, which they may own one at a time or sequentially. In doing so, they apply learnings and insights from previous ventures to new ones, gradually perfecting their techniques and approaches to creating successful ventures.
The earlier in life you gain entrepreneurial experience, the easier it seems to be to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. For instance, many an autobiography shows successful businesspeople emerging from humble backgrounds and applying fundamental business lessons learned from their adolescent newspaper rounds or lemonade stands.
Many entrepreneurs get their start after spotting a potential opportunity in the context of their former field of employment (such as an opportunity or niche not currently exploited or adequately serviced by their employer). Having “inside knowledge” of the market, its dynamics, consumer requirements, competitors etc. allows them to “hit the ground running”.
In other cases, training/experience within a specific field can be a hindrance, blinding all but the most creative and open-minded to non-traditional methods of solving problems. Many entrepreneurs spot opportunities in fields unrelated to their training/background because they are able to examine problems free of industry “dogma” and/or because they are able to bring a different approach/skillset to the problem-solving process.
Dissatisfaction with paid employment is certainly a prime motivator for would-be entrepreneurs. However, work history plays a more important role, as the technical and other skills gained while employed play a key role in the success or failure of an entrepreneurial endeavour. Experience in areas such as finance, marketing, distribution and product/service development gained while employed will stand an entrepreneur in good stead.
Governments can play an important role in stimulating entrepreneurial activities.
At a micro-level, they can provide entrepreneurial support programs (such as free business skills courses, advisory/mentoring services etc.) and funding agencies.
At a macro level, many governments around the world are introducing legislation to ensure that government-funded R&D labs and universities pursue the commercialisation of their research, either through startups or by licensing/selling intellectual property to entrepreneurs.