I just read ‘Born’ or ‘made,’ entrepreneurs share key traits by Joseph Walker who has been affiliated with the Center for Entrepreneurship at BYU for the past ten years. As part of his article he shares a list of entrepreneurial traits he got from John G. Burch that I found at first elementary, but then fascinating in how it highlights the strengths and weaknesses of entrepreneurs.
I recently read somewhere that a very high percentage of bloggers are fascinated by themselves and write about little else. I believe there was an assumption on the part of those conducting the study that someone who writes on a blog about themself is therefore fascinated with themself. I write about myself not because I’m fascinated by myself, but because I’m not sure I’m qualified to be an expert on too many other things. And frankly, when I read someone else’s personal blog I’m reading because I want to know what they think and who they are in the hopes it might help me. So here is Mr. Burch’s list of ten traits of entrepreneurs, with my own commentary relative to myself and those I’ve personally observed. Prepare to be fascinated.
1. A desire to achieve. My dad has told me he has never felt the drive I have. He was satisfied having a 9 to 5 job that allowed him to support his family. For him, work was just a job, and that was alright with him. That’s alright with me too. I don’t think entrepreneurs are better than anyone else or that everyone should be an entrepreneur. All I know is there is something inside of me that doesn’t allow me to be satisfied with a 9 to 5 job. I could do it if I needed to, but I might go crazy. I’d rather be poor but feel like I’m accomplishing something than be stable but bored, which is how I would feel at a 9 to 5.
2. Hard work. When I work for someone else I work hard, but I don’t work too hard. When it’s time to go home I’ll willingly go. I might do a little extra bit of work here and there. Most importantly, when I work for someone else I feel like I’m working. When I work for myself I don’t notice I’m working. The times when work feels like work are few and far between.
3. Desire to work for themselves. It’s just so much easier to work for yourself. You don’t have restrictions, you can do whatever you want, and if you can dream it you can try to do it. You might fail, but at least you can take the chance. It’s more fun and meaningful.
4. Nurturing quality. I’m not sure if this means that entrepreneurs nurture quality in their organizations or if they possess the quality of nurturing. I think it’s the latter, although there’s certainly wrong with the former. I have to admit sometimes I feel like a mother hen gathering my employees under my wings, or a hen taking care of ideas as though they were eggs, trying to get them to hatch and turn into something of worth.
5. Acceptance of responsibility. I can’t imagine a worse entrepreneur than someone who is willing to start a business and make strategic decisions but then blame anyone and anything but himself for his failures. Sure, sometimes things happen outside an entrepreneur’s control, but we all deal with that. Things have happened to me that have challenged my ability to succeed, but I am succeeding in spite of those challenges, and where I haven’t succeeded or haven’t succeeded as fast as I would like I blame myself more than I blame external circumstances.
6. Reward orientation. I would change this to read “opportunity orientation.” I’m always looking for something that will help my business to be more successful and take it to the next level.
7. Optimism. How else could I explain why I got into so much debt? Optimism is one of the greatest strengths and weaknesses of entrepreneurs because while it gives them courage to try, it also can mask their sense of reality.
8. Orientation to excellence. Although I’ve certainly made mistakes and my company doesn’t always turn out excellent results, it isn’t for a lack of trying, and where we fail we are always trying to improve.
9. Organization. The quote in the article is what really struck me. “The entrepreneur is not really interested in doing the work; he is interested in creating the way the company operates. In that regard, the entrepreneur is an inventor. He or she loves to invent but does not love to manufacture or sell or distribute what he or she invents.” (Michael Gerber, author and entrepreneur)
That quote hit me hard when I read it. All this time I’ve been feeling like I’m a lazy bum. When there’s nobody else around to do a certain task then I’m happy to do it, but as soon as I hire someone who can take care of it I pass the work off as fast as I can and I feel no desire whatsoever to do it myself. The very idea of doing the work makes me want to lay down and take a nap.
What fascinates me isn’t doing the work itself, it’s figuring out processes and organizing people to get the work done.
10. Profit orientation. I could probably do better on this one. I enjoy working towards a profit, that much is sure, but I hope I’m as excited about running a business that is profitable as I have been about running a business that merely enjoys that prospect.