by Steve Musick
Startups, entrepreneurs, incubators – these are the backbone of the new American economy, and many smart people are looking for ways to get in on the action. While it may seem easier than ever for enterprising minds to launch their own startups, building a successful business takes much more than a great idea.
As a long-time business consultant, professor, and mentor to college students discovering entrepreneurship, I’m often asked whether entrepreneurs are born or made.
The answer? It’s a little bit of both. Successful entrepreneurs share certain innate qualities that form the foundation of their success, but without other learned attributes, their brilliant startups are essentially dead in the water.
Traits at the Core of an Entrepreneur’s DNA
Creativity and intuition are traits inherent to true entrepreneurs. These are the raw materials needed for hatching new ideas and bringing them to fruition. Those who possess these characteristics tend to see market opportunities before their customer base even realizes they want something. They know what makes people tick and how to tap into their desires. They’re the people who intuitively see ways to improve the world around them.
This creativity leads people away from the standard 9-to-5 corporate career trajectory. Artist and master penman Jake Weidmann is such a person. He could have taken a job working as an assistant to the master penman in the White House or the Vatican. Instead, he started a small business in Denver and is learning to become an independent entrepreneur.
The 4 Learned Elements of Entrepreneurship
Even the most creative people don’t necessarily have what it takes to build successful companies. These four elements can be taught and learned over time:
1. People Management
A good entrepreneurial leader values people who exhibit strengths he or she may not possess. The ability to assemble a diverse team with a variety of skills is the hallmark of a smart, confident leader.
2. Laser Focus
The trouble with many creative people is that they are easily distracted by new ideas, constantly looking to dive into a new enterprise. This does not bode well for success. Strong leaders learn to focus and execute on the project at hand.
3. Capital Strategies
Entrepreneurs need to learn to talk money – or partner with someone who can. Investment capital is crucial for getting a startup off the ground, and knowing how to allot and manage those funds is equally important. No one is born knowing how to balance the books, but it’s a fundamental business skill that must be sharpened or acquired like any other.
Think of an entrepreneurial leader as the conductor of an orchestra. Conductors work with all of the musicians in the various sections to produce a performance the audience (i.e., customers) enjoys and will pay for over and over again. The entrepreneur must nurture the individual aspects of the business, but also manage them in such a way that everything hums along seamlessly. They should establish a strong organizational culture that defines the business for employees, customers, and suppliers.
Entrepreneurship is an ongoing process of learning, failing, and iterating on past experiences. While entrepreneurs are creative and intuitive by nature, they also must develop the necessary skills of business ownership or bring someone on board who can supplement their weaknesses. It’s true that some people have entrepreneurship in their DNA, but every startup needs a leader with focus, good management capabilities, money sense, and the ability to hold it all together.
Steve Musick is the CEO of Destiny Capital, a financial advising firm he founded in 1977. In addition to wealth management, Steve is an author, speaker, and lecturer on the subject of entrepreneurial leadership. He recently launched Empowerium as an entrepreneurial platform to fuel business growth.
Mads Boedker | Courtesy of Author