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The DNA of an Entrepreneur

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The DNA of an Entrepreneur

by Greg Watson
Is there an Entrepreneur Gene or an Entrepreneur Chromosome within the DNA
of an Entrepreneur?
In humans, there are chromosomes that determine sex and there are genes that
determine the color of your eyes. Generically speaking, there are X & Y
chromosomes that determine whether you are either male or female suggesting
that you either are a female or are not a female. With genes, there are
dominant genes and recessive genes, suggesting that while you might carry a
gene for blue eyes, you may also have a dominant gene from brown eyes which
would win out to determine what your eye color is.
A lot of institutional research is ongoing to map the human genome and identify
the functions and role of DNA within the genetic make up of the human being.
If we evaluate the genetic structure of economics and commerce,
philosophically we can ask the question Are Entrepreneurs Born? Or are they
Culturally there currently exists a romantic notion about the glamour and
romance of entrepreneurship. Many popular bands on tour have groupies that
follow them that are romanced by the emotional feelings that are created by the
illusion of what it means to be a rock and roll star on tour. Similarly, there are
entrepreneur groupies that dream of the romance of entrepreneurship and
desire to be associated with, close to, or affiliated with entrepreneurs.


reality of what it takes to be an entrepreneur (or a rock and roll star in a popular
band) is often quite different than the romantic notion that exists in the public

Similarly, what is an entrepreneur? What is the DNA of an Entrepreneur? What is

the genetic make up of an entrepreneur? What are the characteristics of an
entrepreneur? These questions are best answered not by a popularized romantic
notion of the perceived glamour and romance of entrepreneurship, but by a
scholarly researched assessment of the characteristics that drive long term
sustainable success by identifiable entrepreneurs.
To begin to define what an entrepreneur is we first need to create conceptual
definitions of enterprise and the genetic players within the DNA space that we
wish to look at.
The Enterprise is the fundamental economic building block or cellular
organizational structure that allows an individual or group of individuals to
undertake an economic activity. Typically this activity is sophisticated, requires
some level of organization, and includes some inherent risk. The modern
enterprise is the fundamental building block of the transfer of goods and
services in society today. Virtually any activity that you may want to engage in,
whether that is basic human needs such as the consumption of food or shelter
or discretionary needs such as entertainment or the purchase of luxury goods,
involves your personal interaction with enterprises in one varying form or
The traditional enterprise is composed of many individual actors each
performing their unique functional responsibilities within the
enterprise. Distinctly different, but not entirely separate from the individual
actors within the enterprise organizational structure, is the entrepreneur. The
entrepreneur is the individual who organizes, manages, and assumes the risk
associated with the enterprise.
So what makes an Entrepreneur different from all of the other actors upon the
enterprise stage? That is what we seek to define.

One characteristic often attributed to an Entrepreneur is that of seeing or

identifying an opportunity. In isolation, this is not an adequate definition of a
entrepreneurial characteristic. The Entrepreneur may not be the first creator or
innovator of an idea. However, we can utilize this function to help draw a
distinction between an Entrepreneur and an enterprise actor. An inventor may
create a new product or concept but not know what to do with it, lack the skills
or drive to develop it, or be willing to take the risk to exploit it. So is an inventor
an entrepreneur?

Clearly we must evaluate additional characteristics and then

evaluate these characteristics cumulatively.

A second characteristic often attributed to an Entrepreneur is that of organizing
and managing new solutions to problems. Again, in isolation, this too is not an
adequate definition of a characteristic of an entrepreneur. Excellent actors on
the enterprise stage perform these functions on a daily basis within the
enterprise organizational structure.
A third characteristic often attributed to an Entrepreneur is that of identifying
market opportunities, the ability to create and execute a sales and marketing
plan that identifies prospective customers, identifies a value proposition for
those customers, and a sales process to convert those prospects into
customers. Here too, sales and marketing professionals within the enterprise
perform these functions on a daily basis throughout the various enterprise
organizations that make up the fabric of our world stage every day.
A fourth characteristic often attributed to an Entrepreneur is that of identifying
the financial capital resources needed and sourcing those funds from various
financial channels, whether that is debt, private equity, public equity, or other
financial boot strap facilities. This function is also routinely carried out across a
varied spectrum of enterprise organizations including advisors, bankers,
attorneys, and accountants. All of which frequently participate in the process of
identifying and acquiring the necessary capital resources.
A fifth characteristic often attributed to an Entrepreneur is that of building a
management team of both internal people resources as well as external people
resources who collectively have the knowledge and skills to participate in the

execution of an enterprise activity. Yet this characteristic too is also a core

function within the modern enterprise.
As we evaluate the characteristics traditionally identified as being associated
with an entrepreneur, we quickly see these same characteristics executed by
individual actors within the enterprise stage on a regular basis. So what makes
an entrepreneur different from the various actors within the enterprise stage?
The traditional response centers around two distinct themes;

First a creative and passionate ability to combine these various

characteristics to identify new solutions to meet unmet consumer needs in
a new or different manner that creates lasting value, and

Second, a willingness to assume personal economic risk for undertaking

that activity.

To this traditional response, I would add five additional characteristics and one
core value.
Characteristic of a Replicable mindset. There are some pursuits that can
legitimately last a lifetime. However, such lifetime opportunities are rare. The
world is full of what are popularly described as one-hit-wonders thus a
critical criteria begs the question, did you just get lucky, or do you truly have the
skills, talents, and characteristics that allow you the ability to repeat the
entrepreneurial process not just once, but a second, third, and successive
times. An entrepreneur has a replicable mindset that allows the enterprise
creation process to be replicated time after time.
Characteristic of Sustainability of the resultant enterprise. This new enterprise
that is created by an entrepreneur must also be sustainable. That is the
enterprise must eventually develop to a point where it can be sustained without
the original founder. If the enterprise requires the continued presence of the
founder, the founder simply created a job. This is a traditional cycle of the
various stages of development that a corporate enterprise goes through; and
each stage typically needs a different type of management and leadership
thus to grow to the next stage often will require new management and the

traditional entrepreneur must have the ability to move on to their next

entrepreneurial cycle of new enterprise creation.
Characteristic of Innovative knowledge creation. Finally, the entrepreneur has to
have the ability to creatively innovate knowledge. This is exercised in the
combination of the various skill sets or characteristics that are commonly
attributed to entrepreneurs. While individual actors within the enterprise stage
may be better at their individual skill sets, the entrepreneur combines the pieces
in unique creative ways to identify new opportunities, organize and select the
best available combination of individual talents and skill sets, manage the
development and execution of an organizational structure to serve the new
opportunity, and manage the risk that the entrepreneur is assuming in the
creation of this new enterprise.
Characteristic of Leadership. The entrepreneur must be able to inspire people
with a vision of what the new enterprise will be, inspire investors and
stakeholders involved in the creation of this enterprise, and provide the
leadership to guide and manage the implementation and execution of the
business plan to grow the enterprise.
Value of Ethics. This quickly relates back to the ability of the entrepreneur to
replicate the new enterprise creation process. An actor may be able to be
successful once while conducting themselves in a less than ethical manner; but
can they inspire people with a vision, and receive the confidence of investors
and customers a second time?
Thus a true entrepreneur has the ability to identify opportunities, provide the
leadership to creatively innovate new solutions to serve those opportunities,
organize, manage, and execute a plan to serve those opportunities, inspire and
motivate stakeholders, investors, managers, and team members, lead the
enterprise into the future, and pass the mantle of leadership to others when the
organizational needs change. And finally, have the ability to replicate this
process when the opportunity presents itself.
Another way to restate that is:

Entrepreneurs have a need to achieve; and once having done so,

the need to do it all over again. Greg Watson
Position Statement: Individual Entrepreneurs are Born, but Enterprise
Entrepreneurship Skills can be developed
Individual Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs are inherently defined by their ability to
identify and execute on combination of a variety of entrepreneurial
characteristics and values; however, it is this need to achieve and this
subsequent need to do it all over again that truly distinguishes the entrepreneur
from the successfully executive, manager, self-employed business person,
business founder, or the innovator/inventor.
Enterprise Entrepreneurship: Many people believe that entrepreneurs are born
with an innate drive and passion that allows them to accomplish these feats of
new enterprise creation. However, that belief does not preclude the concept that
within the corporate enterprise, various individual entrepreneurial skills can be
taught and developed such that organized teams, provided with support and
backing, can also function collectively in an entrepreneurial manner.
In many cases, free from the burden of assuming the risk of the economic
activity, collective individuals functioning as part of a team will feel free to
pursue new opportunities in an entrepreneurial like manner. Thus while they
individually may not possesses the characteristics of an entrepreneur, they can
collectively function in an entrepreneurial likemanner to the benefit of and
the risk to the enterprise.
Collectively, significant academic research is beginning to be developed in areas
such as organizational development, new product development, and other
functional areas to attempt to foster the development of entrepreneurial skills
which will allow individuals as well as the enterprise to benefit. Enterprises that
successfully are able to implement cross functional teams and provide the
financial and organizational structural support to function in an entrepreneurial
like manner stand to benefit significantly. These enterprises will also be able to

attract more highly qualified individuals who desire to be part of an

entrepreneurial process but are unwilling or unable to take the financial risk or
lack some of the necessary entrepreneurial characteristics or skills.
Progress is being made within the academic community to develop and
incorporate entrepreneurial skill sets into a broad diversity of academic
disciplines. As the fruits of these efforts begin to develop, individuals,
enterprises, and the roles that each play within society will all benefit.
The DNA of a Prototypic Entrepreneur
The characteristics of the prototypic entrepreneur or DNA of an Entrepreneur is
composed of interwoven strands of:

Identity and Beliefs,


Capabilities, and



Identity and Beliefs: Entrepreneurs have an Identity System and a Beliefs

System that at the deepest internal level, know and believe certain things about
themselves. These are beliefs, not dreams or aspirations. Entrepreneurs:

Know who they are.


Believe they are an entrepreneur.


Has a strong need to achieve (not simply a desire to achieve).


Know they can create value.


Believe they have what it takes to build a business.


Believe in themselves.


Are comfortable with who they are.


Are optimistic.


Are visionary & pioneering.

10. Are passionate and energetic.

These characteristics are an inherent part of their self-identity and self-belief
system. They are core values that the entrepreneur can not even imagine not
being true; and is not happy when any one of them is not being

fulfilled. Combined, these characteristics provide the strength for the

entrepreneurial need to achieve. For the entrepreneur, Achieve is an action,
not a result. Thus for the entrepreneur, success is not enough. Success once
achieved must be started all over again for achieve is an action.
This drive to achieve is a key distinction between an entrepreneur and a
successful business founder, the inventor and his invention, or the traditional
self-employed individual.
This need to achieve is the highest correlation factor of successful
Capabilities: Entrepreneurs have certain capabilities that are a natural
functionality in the way they approach tasks and decision making.

Can make decisions in the face of uncertainty.


Can spot high leverage opportunities.


Can hire A Players (which often means hiring people who are better at
individual tasks than they are).


Can build a thriving small business.


Can lead.


Can solve big problems.


Can see possibilities where others do not.


Can delay gratification.

Stanford University conducted a research project where they gave 4 (four) year
old children marsh mellows and told them that if they waited 10 minutes before
eating them, that they could have a second one. Some children ate the marsh
mellows, some children waited, and some children pseudo ate their marsh
mellows by licking them. Thirty years, later, they followed up this study to
evaluate how these children performed in life. Those children that waited the 10
minutes statistically had happier marriages, higher paying jobs, had progressed
further professionally, and also had the highest percentages of entrepreneurial
activities. Entrepreneurs typically are not looking for the short-term financial
gratification or rewards of material possessions, but rather look forward with a
long term view building, growth, and development and the emotional and

psychological rewards that come with their continued and ongoing

Behaviors: Entrepreneurs demonstrate specific behaviors that differentiate
themselves from the expectation that a typical employee expects.

Action oriented


Always strive to do things better.


Driven to achieve results with high standards of excellence.


Does not need supervision or accountability to get tasks done.


Incredibly persistent.

The entrepreneurial mind thrives in environments of uncertainty, diversity of

culture, talent and opportunity. These three areas of characteristics provide
broad insights into the mindset of the entrepreneur; perhaps the genetic
makeup of the entrepreneur.
Is there an entrepreneur chromosome that defines you either as being an
entrepreneur or not? There probably is not such a definitive source. Are there
dominant and recessive characteristics that function in a similar manner as
genes do within the human genome? It certainly appears that there are; and
warrants sound scholarly academic research into the manner in which these
inter-relationships between these characteristics function and manifest
themselves in entrepreneurship.