Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

Entrepreneur and author, Gaurav Marya in his bestselling book on building entrepreneurial mindset, Take Charge, Entrepreneur India Books, talks about the mindset of an entrepreneur, which is filled with responsibility and mental ownership and further goes on to talk on how this question, on whether the entrepreneurs are born or made, be addressed when a simple “yes” or “no” wouldn’t suffice. Here’s reproducing the answer as addressed by Gaurav Marya.

Joe Abraham migrated to the USA with his family in 1988. He started his first company at the age of 23 and has evolved into a serial entrepreneur. In early 2011 he published a book Entrepreneurial DNA: The Breakthrough Discovery that Aligns Your Business to Your Unique Strengths. He talks about how there are not one but four types of entrepreneurial DNA – the builder, the opportunist, the specialist and the innovator. He enables readers to identify which type they fit in and then suggests business optimisation strategies that suit each type.

My problem with this view is that it seems to see these categories as fixed and unchangeable. Is that really the case?

In 2011, Ernst and Young, one of the largest professional services company in the world, commissioned a study that included a survey of 685 entrepreneurs and in-depth interviews with past winners of the Entrepreneur of the Year award. The key finding of the study reveal that though entrepreneurs share common traits, there is no entrepreneur gene. “Entrepreneurs are made, not born” is their answer to the question posed above.

This confirms developments in the last decade, which have seen entrepreneurial courses, spring up across all business schools – Harvard, Wharton, IIM-Ahmadabad. In fact, Harvard Business School Press in 2005 published Shaping the Waves: A History of Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School by the prolific author of best-selling business books, Jeffrey Cruikshank. The author talks about how in the 1980s, Howard Stevenson, a Harvard faculty member, argued that entrepreneurship should be understood as a management approach rather than an innate personality trait or instinct. Stevenson described a set of behaviours that helped define the entrepreneurial manager, including the tendency to seek out opportunities, a willingness to act quickly, an ability to negotiate a multi-staged commitment of resources, a skilful use of resources and an interest in building a network rather than a hierarchy. Surely these traits can be learnt, internalised and practiced.

In the E&Y report, the key success factors for their enterprise that the respondents voted for in descending order was: “experience as employee” (number one reason), followed by “higher education”, “mentors”, “family”, “co-founders” and lastly “investors”.


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