The DNA of entrepreneurs?


Nature or Nurture

 A thought provoking piece of research from Ernst & Young on CEOs/entrepreneurs and traits they share in common.

From experience working with Celtar clients such traits are shared by business owners in all types and sizes of companies. Possibly what’s often missing is Opportunity.

The Opportunity of working in larger well run companies to act as reference points, and an overall passion and drive to build a “bigger/stronger/better” enterprise. “What’s the point,” they say, ” a bigger company will be riskier, harder to manage so What’s In It For Me?”

The report features perspective from a survey of 685 entrepreneurial business leaders from around the world and is informed by a series of in-depth interviews with Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award winners.


Key findings of the report

1. Entrepreneurial leaders are made, not born.

The concept of the young, dynamic entrepreneurial leader who starts a venture fresh out of college is one that persists very strongly in the media [and in Enterprise Ireland PR]. But although many entrepreneurial leaders start at a reasonably young age, the experience they gain through education and time spent in a more traditional corporate environment is vital to their future success. Indeed, more than half of the 685 respondents describe themselves as “transitioned” entrepreneurs — in other words, they have previously spent time in traditional employment before setting out on their own.

2. Entrepreneurship is rarely a one-off decision.

The majority of respondents to this survey are “serial entrepreneurs” who have launched at least two companies. Entrepreneurial leaders who embark on more than one venture gain valuable insight and lessons into how to make a new business successful. As such, they perform a vital role in the economy and, among them, start a significant proportion of all new ventures. [I suggest Irish property developers would not fit into this bracket]

3. Funding, people and know-how are the biggest barriers to entrepreneurial success.

Among the 6 out of 10 respondents who experienced obstacles in their ventures, the most common barrier is lack of funding or finance. This is particularly pertinent in the current environment, when many entrepreneurs continue to experience problems with accessing finance, despite a gradual easing of credit conditions in many countries [not yet in Ireland].

The two other most-cited obstacles are people and expertise. As a result, entrepreneurial leaders are well–advised to build “ecosystems” – networks of resources – to address these three areas.

4. Entrepreneurs share common traits.

Entrepreneurs may be made rather than born, but our research has found that entrepreneurs will typically exhibit a combination of behaviours and attitudes. At the heart of this model is a strong internal locus of control – a belief that events result directly from an individual’s own actions or behaviour.

This is complemented by a mindset that sees opportunity where others see disruption, along with an acceptance of calculated risk and a tolerance of failure.

5. Traditional companies can learn from entrepreneurial leaders.

Employee incentives and fostering innovation are good places to start. It is no coincidence that fast-growing entrepreneurial companies tend to place larger amounts of share ownership in the hands of employees. And in terms of innovation, traditional companies have few incentives to disrupt their own business models with game-changing innovations. But companies that can are richly rewarded.


Full report available at–Decoding-the-DNA-of-the-entrepreneur on right hand side of page

Billy Linehan

Celtar business advisers Dublin

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