No one is born an entrepreneur, it is learnt

What is the entrepreneur mindset, and how do we develop it? These are questions that often go amiss during conversations about successful business leaders. Much is focused on reputation, a penchant for spotting talent, and of course, the all-important sales figures. While important markers, these fail to address what truly sets apart those destined to be entrepreneurs from the rest.

Much like the definition of entrepreneurship, the key characteristics or personality traits required to be an entrepreneur are by no means finite, nor uniformly agreed upon. There are many critical defining characteristics, some obvious, some less so, all coupled with a debate on whether a person innately has them or can nurture them over time. Nonetheless, there are several common traits that we can point out here for aspiring entrepreneurs.

An evident ability to focus when an opportunity is identified; it must be committed to entirely until resolution. Making use of an advantage, such as a gap in the market or an ability to produce better or cheaper products. An appetite for risk-taking and proceeding with an opportunity in the knowledge that it may fail. The need for achievement; a desire for recognition facilitates drive. A wish to create something new and of value through innovativeness and creativity. A high degree of autonomy, with a craving to control their own destiny. An abundance of self-confidence, stemming from a passion for doing something, and the ego to know you will do it well.

This list is not exhaustive, and many of the traits overlap in some form or another. However, it is a good place to start when trying to dissect the fundamentals of the entrepreneur mindset.

Nature versus nurture: does it matter?

It is hotly debated whether key entrepreneurship characteristics are developed through nature or nurture. The nature argument proposes that entrepreneurs are genetically hard-wired with the required traits. Meanwhile, the idea of nurture argues that these skills or personality features are acquired through external factors being learned and developed over time.   

While these traits may be more evident in certain people from an early age, it does not suggest they will not be squandered and picked up by others later in life. There are several varying and contradictory arguments involved in this debate, and it could well be that entrepreneurs need a balance of both innate ability and gained experience. Additionally, there are more impactful factors that affect success rates when starting a new business, such as background, that dismantle both arguments. Either way, aspiring entrepreneurs should never be led to believe that they are predetermined to succeed or fail.  

Indeed, to place too greater an emphasis on the nature argument would suggest for some there is no point trying to learn the skills needed for a successful business and capitulating at the first challenge. This itself goes against the essence of entrepreneurship. More than that, it overlooks the fundamental role of education and experience in becoming a successful business leader.

How can entrepreneurs overcome business challenges?

Starting a new business venture is no easy feat, and personality traits will only get a person so far. Successfully overcoming business challenges is a core aspect of entrepreneurship, and to achieve this, entrepreneurs must deploy interesting methods and support mechanisms.

For example, seeking help from others is essential. One way that an entrepreneur can level up is through the guidance of a mentor. A mentor will often have previous experience in specific or multiple areas of the venture being worked on, thereby allowing a new idea to be built on a foundation of knowledge. While bravado and ego are integral for confident self-starters, there is always a time to tone them down and ask for help – which is also an important skill.

Finding and forming connections with others that share a passion for success is a powerful tool. Hyder (2021) states that “it is not enough for a mentor to be successful in your industry; to be a great mentor, they must also be a teacher who is driven to help you succeed”.

In addition, networking is one of the most valuable skills an entrepreneur can learn to ensure the success of their start-up. Networking refers to establishing mutually beneficial relationships to make sure a business meets its needs. This enables an entrepreneur to sound out new ideas and recruit needed resources, such as people or money. Research suggests that entrepreneurs, on average, maintain twice the number of online network connections as non-entrepreneurs (Deustch 2020). Starting a new venture takes time and effort, so having access to a plethora of connections with shared motivations is crucial to achieving goals.

Ultimately, the entrepreneurial spirit comes from a constant thirst for knowledge and a want to get better. Practical training and on-the-job experience help learn and use valuable new skills and practices, including mentorships and networking. Regardless of personality traits or characteristics, business acumen is crucial when starting and growing a business; this is primarily developed through training and experience, so entrepreneurs must invest in and allow time for both.