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Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

The A to Z of the characteristics of an entrepreneur

Much academic research has been conducted to define the characteristics of an
entrepreneur. Like an animal in the zoo they have been studied at length by
economists, anthropologists, management academics, psychologists, sociologists,
historians, finance experts and organisational scholars.

Who are these creatures? Why do these persistent people never know when to give
up? What drives them to take risks that ordinary folk find overwhelming? Where do
they get that energy? How do they create value from nothing and most importantly …
what are the characteristics that define them as an entrepreneur.

As practicing entrepreneurs, lecturers and authors of entrepreneurial books and

material, Dr. Neil Flanagan and myself have developed our own view on the A to Z
characteristics of an entrepreneur .

Introduction – Characteristics of an Entrepreneur (the A to Z)

Even though entrepreneurial skills can be identified, analysed and taught, we believe
that the position of the entrepreneur in society is more aligned to a calling than that of
a skill-set. What others may see as ‘a black sheep’ curse, the entrepreneur sees as a
gift which is quite possibility, simply an accident of birth. For example, according to
the Myers-Briggspersonality classifications, entrepreneurs come from fields like the
ISTP ‘Craftsman’, ESTP ‘Doer’, ENTJ ‘Field Marshal’, ENTP ‘Inventor’ or
the ENFP ‘Champion’ type temperament, which will all gravitate naturally to the
entrepreneurial style of endeavor.

The characteristics of an entrepreneur are identified in high energy creative people,

who are self-confident, have high levels of self-esteem and are futuristic in their
outlook as they seek to incessantly solve problems, take risks and learn from failures
(theirs and others). They thrive on change and have a natural predisposition to
showing initiative and willingly accept personal responsibility for projects. They
harness all available resources within their scope in order to achieve success on their
own terms.

Successful entrepreneurs learn to control and discipline their gift and by combining
this with a business education (both formal and from the ‘school of hard knocks’)
together with a perseverance and an enjoyment of hard work driven by a righteous
passion, they eventually craft their success in spite of the many preceding
disappointments and set backs.

Many people have tried unsuccessfully to categorise the entrepreneur, with the
Webster’s dictionary describing them as ‘one who organizes, manages, and assumes
the risks of a business or enterprise’. This is a typical researchers description, written
without the privileged insight into the mind and spirit of what makes an entrepreneur
tick. As entrepreneurs, educators and authors, we have made an attempt in this Knol
to identify the A to Z of what sets entrepreneurs apart from their other commercially
engaged contemporaries.
Now the entrepreneurial skill-set would afford success in many fields of
human endeavor, however, the entrepreneur is drawn to the world of business and
commerce. We believe that this is because their great desire for independence, their
love of a competitive environment, the business world’s reward for objectivity over
subjectivity and the fact that excelling at this core societal realm makes the greatest
use of their talent.

However, sharing this ‘money accumulating’ space

in society are other players, with some like the scammers and value takers, whose
view of success is so focused on just the money that they are quite prepared, if
necessary, to sell both their integrity and their grandmother in order to have it. As you
will see, whilst both this particular acumen and the entrepreneur’s methodology share
the same ‘money accumulating’ outcome, each achieves it with an entirely different
mind set and approach. Entrepreneurs ‘make money’ – meaning they create value that
did not previously exist rather than just accumulating money via schemes and
exploiting weaknesses that take from another’s hard earned assets. Following is the ‘A
to Z’ of what we believe are the unique and distinguishing aspects, skills and mind-
sets of the entrepreneur – the characteristics of an entrepreneur.

Ambiguity is the “doubt about meaning: a situation in which

something can be understood in more than one way and it is not clear which meaning
is intended”. [1] Ambiguity usually occurs at times of significant societal,
environmental, economic, political, technological or organisational change. Now,
whilst periods of change are quite stressful for the vast majority of people, it marks a
time when entrepreneurs becomes quite invigorated. Entrepreneurs are people that
have a great tolerance for ambiguity [2]. This is because entrepreneurs know that
change always brings with it new opportunities and as Albert Einstein observed “In
the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity” .

Furthermore, the entrepreneur has no fear of change because they bring to every new
period of ambiguity, their past experience with its already highly developed coping
strategies. Entrepreneurs position themselves via alliance building, work activities,
engaged learning and market intelligence gathering, at the very epicentre of the
change and look out through the rolling mist for an emerging opportunity and need for
which they are uniquely resourced to bring a solution. Entrepreneurs do not work
from the turbulent outside-in but rather from the focused inside-out, seeking to find
their own unique place in an evolving and changing environment.
Entrepreneurs have both the conceptual skill to quickly sum up the changing big
picture by identifying relationships and patterns in complex situations, as well as the
ability to identify, take advantage of and action specific solutions to the emerging
problem and need.

“I am not sure where I’m going but I still prepare myself diligently for the journey every day” PB.

B is for Beachhead strategies

Entrepreneurs have a natural understanding

and appreciation of Beachhead Strategies. Beachhead strategies are the strategies that
an entrepreneur uses to gain market penetration and customer acceptance for their
products. Like the war metaphor they mirror, beachhead strategies aim to secure a
foothold as a prerequisite to the main game. Entrepreneurs and generals alike know
that the main game is too heavily guarded and fortified for a full frontal attack so they
each secure a space in some easily acquired ground and then use that position to
eventually strike out for the intended target.

Entrepreneurs may launch with ‘me-too’ products just to establish market acceptance
and then leverage their new found position to release the high-margin innovative
upgrade or add-on. They may partner with established networks, alliances and trusted
brands to establish a market acceptance before striking out on their own, they may
gives lots away for free, just to build momentum and demand for their product. They
may spend time working in an industry or firm to gain the necessary contacts and
market intelligence before the launch of their own venture.

The book “Harvard Business Essentials: Strategy –

Create and implement the best strategy for your business” talks about ‘beachhead
strategies’ [3] in the light of Carl von Clausewitz’snineteenth century book on
military strategy titled ‘Principels of War’. The authors purport that the lessons
learned from Clausewitz’s timeless advice is to ‘aim at the sharp end of the spear
where rivals are weak or uninterested in what you are doing.” The book cites many
examples of this strategy including Sam Walton’s (Wal-Mart) strategy of opening in
small towns that were not served by the formidable rivals like the retail giants, Sears
and J.C.Penny.
Once launched, other beachhead strategies that could be adopted by the new venture
include: (1) Build momentum not profit (2) Be the topic of conversation (3) Work
with your champions (4) Create memorable experiences (5) Create addictions (6)
Break habits and break through (7) Remove barriers (8) Linkup with the locals (9)
Focus on what matters and (10) Exploit the unforeseen opportunities.

“Every project can be broken into two halves – making a start and all the other stuff” PB

C is for Commitment

Entrepreneurial endeavour will never happen without it. Commitment is the founding
drive of the entrepreneur. Not just the commitment to do – but the commitment to do
and then see it through – not just the commitment to see it through but to see it
through with everything on-the-line. It is a commitment to the long term, the
commitment to never giving up on the dream, the commitment to getting up and
starting all over again if fate so decrees.
The commitment tap root for the entrepreneur is the deep desire to live a life of
significance. So, commitment for the entrepreneur stems from their belief that they are
doing something worthwhile, not just for themselves and their associates but for the
‘greater good’. It is this commitment that sees them continue in the face of
disappointment and set backs, when others declare it as ‘all too hard’. According
to Michael Simmons, author of the book “The Student Success Manifesto” – “The
difference between an interest and a commitment, is the difference between if and
when. When we truly commit ourselves to success, it becomes inevitable.”

If commitment is the ‘ying’, then the whole is complete with the ‘yang’ of courage.
For one can not exist without the other. That is, courageous people are committed just
as committed people are courageous. Now courage is not acting without fear but is
rather the ability to look beyond the things that scare you to death and see the things
that inspire you to live. For more, see the knol by Sandra Walston on courage.

“More important than all the talent, all the resources and all the opportunities – is a solitary act of
commitment” PB

D is for Destiny
The entrepreneurial spirit is interlocked with a sence of destiny. For the entrepreneur,
life is not just a process of accumulating physical assets nor just the indulgence of
physical pleasure nor even the cyclical life of comfort and leisure – NO! It is making a
difference, it is living a life of significance, it is embarking on a never ending journey
to be the best that they can be and being the greatest influence for ‘good’ that they

They are driven to take control of their future, to craft

their destiny and if needs be, to make sacrifices in the short term for a greater long
term gain. Many entrepreneurs hold to the same view as was expressed by Winston
Churchill [4], the wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain, who said “I felt as if I
were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for
this hour and this trial.” It is not their business that makes entrepreneurs a champion,
they chose the champion’s life from an early age and so developed their character
until it eventually becomes self evident.

“Our destiny is the last thing we discover after having prepared for it all our lives” PB

E is for Effectual reasoning

Business schools and corporate enterprises the world over teach the process of
managerial or strategic decision making as the basis for all business development.
This process starts with clearly defined goals, that translate into specifically defined
objectives that inform the strategies and then determine the tactics.
This basis for decision making is actually at the antithesis of the entrepreneurial one,
that takes stock of the strategic resources, capabilities and unfair advantage within the
entrepreneur’s control and then selects an emerging opportunities that these
capabilities make them uniquely placed to exploit. This peculiarly ‘effectual’
entrepreneurial thinking has been researched by Saras D. Sarasvath an associate
professor of the University of Virginia and is explained in her article “What makes
entrepreneurs entrepreneurial”.

“To build anything, we need to progress down the hierarchical pyramid from purpose to values to
goals to objectives to actions – trouble is, our own life is built the other way up.” PB

F is for Focus

Entrepreneurs know better than most, the power generated by focus. They define the
mantra for their venture and in spite of the many morphs, changes and set-backs they
manage to keep everyone focused on the main game. They know how to focus their
own lives as well as the lives of others onto the targeted outcome and so penetrate
barriers by the concentrated attack on a single point.

Their concentration at times can border on obsession as they stick with their passion,
in spite of the many distractions, and get the job done. They narrow their living to a
few core commitments protecting those at all costs but forgo the fringe and peripheral
engagements that can clutter the lives of those less focused and obsessed. These
successful entrepreneurs are single minded with a eye-constantly-on-the-prize. They
are not easily distracted, they rarely quit and with blinkers on they stay focused on the
task at hand until it is done.
“Unfocused energy dissipates whilst focused energy, like the sun’s rays through a magnifying
glass, BURNS!” PB

G is for Global

True entrepreneurs today are identified by their global vision. Sure, they primarily
offer solutions for their immediate surrounding market but they have an eye for how
that could translate into the global sphere. They recognize the power of the internet to
deliver a global outcome for their enterprise and so shape their model to include it in
their thinking and ‘blue sky’ possibilities. No longer happy to be tagged the SME
(Small to Medium Enterprise) these start ups are better tagged GOS (Global
Opportunity Startup). Yes, they start small but their ambition is to change the world –
literally. Kevin Hall talks about this further in his knol Why is it important for an
Entrepreneur to go Global?

“Life is a vast open plain in which your courage stakes out the boundaries”

H is for Health

Good health is a remarkable aspect of

entrepreneurial life. For many entrepreneurs this is simply because they refuse to be
sick, mostly because they can’t afford to be. The entrepreneur finds no benefit in this
concept as their sick-leave entitled corporate counterpart may find. We believe that
good health for the entrepreneur is derived from their positive and creative mind set,
their problem solving obsession and living the life of ‘doing what they love + loving
what they do’ that keeps them so. They give no mind to the carcinogens of envy,
anger and jealousy because they are too obsessed with pursuing their own fun, fortune
and fulfilment. Not only is good health a benefit of the entrepreneurial life, but it is
also a necessity, because successful entrepreneurs are often called upon to work long
hours for extended periods of time. Research [5] carried out in 2006 indicates that
entrepreneurs are objectively more healthy than others.
The founder of the website Baby Boomer Entrepreneurs in the
article [6] “Characteristics of Entrepreneurs”,believes that being in business for
yourself is good for health. They believe that good health is a common trait of
entrepreneurs primarily because their stress can be self-managed whilst the work-for-
the-man stress is imposed and many times irresolvable. It is this unresolved stress that
the author believes leads to poor health. The author contends that “being an
entrepreneur is one of the healthiest occupations on the planet.” – We agree!
“My good health comes from a balanced diet of accepted truth whilst exercising much kindness,
integrity and cheer and avoiding those deadly carcinogens of envy, anger, jealousy, revenge,
pretence and double-mindedness” PB

I is for Innovation

Innovation sets the entrepreneur apart from all of their other commercially engaged
contemporaries. Entrepreneurs know how to add value by making a product better and
getting a target market to demonstrate their appreciation of it by parting with their
money. The management theoretician Peter F. Drucker in his book “Innovation and
Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles” describes innovation as what entrepreneurs
do. For him, innovation represents “the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by
which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or different service
… innovation involves, changing the value and satisfaction obtained from resources by
the customer” (p. 19-33).

An entrepreneur’s core competency is to find new ways to solve problems and to

come up with clever, workable solutions. They are naturally curious, inquisitive,
bright and highly flexible in their thinking. They constantly scan their environment for
new trends and are keen to spot a potential new venture opportunity. A very
interesting aspect of the entrepreneurial mind-set is that having no money is not
perceived by them as a barrier to ‘making it happen’. They possess an almost naïve
belief that funds are the resources that naturally follow an opportunity whose time has
come and where a balanced and experienced team has been gathered to exploit it. A
surprising fact for many, but that’s how it works.
“Creativity is born of a passion to do it right and to do it better” PB

J is for Just do it

The Nike mantra could so easily be the entrepreneur’s. Entrepreneurs do. Just
like Richard Branson says in his book ‘Screw it, Let’s do it’. Entrepreneurs also
think, plan, judge, arrange, source, allocate, choose etc … just like everyone else but
doing is the priority and often times the first thing done. For the entrepreneur it is
more a case of ‘ready-fire-aim’ than it is the more conventionally accepted sequence.
Entrepreneurs are action takers and should not be confused with creative day dreamers
and idea makers. Entrepreneurs are decision makers and are unafraid of making
wrong decisions knowing that these are often necessary in finding the path to the right

For the entrepreneur, the decision to just do it is often to do it alone. This is what
separates an entrepreneur from a highly competent corporate executive, for the latter
on getting knocked back on a proposal will simply shelve the project. This is not the
entrepreneurial one. They immediately look for an alternative even if that means
putting 100% of their own resources behind the project to make it happen. They
believe in the opportunity to the point of going it alone if needs be. ‘Making it
happen’ is what the entrepreneur does.

“The suffering born of a tragic event is fate’s doing – the regretful anguish of a missed
opportunity, is ours” PB

K is for Keep it real

Entrepreneurs are separated from creative dreamers on this point. Entrepreneurs

know how to ‘make it real’. Whilst possessing the perceptive vision that can foresee
future societal paradigm shifts they can equally explain the ‘what comes next’ in
making it so. Whilst this is not always part of the ‘idealist’ gift of entrepreneurship,
the’ keeping it real’ soon becomes a cornerstone skill of successful entrepreneurial
Entrepreneurs have an objective approach which while empathizing with people’s
needs are more concerned with the performance and accomplishment. Entrepreneurs
are obsessed with the ‘truth’. The what’s real. They are honest and straightforward in
their dealings and expect others to do likewise. This is often an area that they lose out
to other commercially engaged players whose truth is subjectively determined by the
greatest personal monetary gain. Still, entrepreneurs learn the best aspects of business
acumen from their commercial counterparts but apply it to their ventures without the
need to sell their soul to the ‘money over all’ mantra. Get-rich-quick is not in the
entrepreneur’s vocabulary.

Herb Kelleher, the entrepreneur who started Southwest Airlines, identifies this keep
it real approach in entrepreneurs with what he calls [7] “a pleasant sense of
scepticism”. This mind set can challenge on points of reality without turning negative
or destroying motivation. He says that he plays the passionate advocate who
applies “sound judgement to focus on the truly important issues, and delivering the
type of positive yet challenging scepticism needed to fully explore ideas”

“Reality is in the ‘what is’ not in the ‘what should be’” PB

L is for Leadership

We think it is truer to say that entrepreneurs do not chose to be leaders but that
leadership chooses them. They lead because they are prepared to take responsibility in
an effort to get the job done. They lead because, from their objective standpoint, they
don’t trust another’s decisions too heavily skewed by political or subjective bias. They
lead because others follow, and other follow because they see their own needs being
fulfilled in the entrepreneurial direction and outcomes. They lead because in times of
great change they are the ones still moving forward, still possessing the energy to
work tirelessly to solve the confronting problems. They live in a future that others
wish to be guided to.

Leadership for the entrepreneur is not about status but about function. Imbibing a
healthy self esteem, they have little need for status. They are not motivated by
external acknowledgement but by achieving their own internal measures of success
and achievement. Armed with a generalist approach, futuristic mindset, excellent
people skills, a penchant for action over words and operating often in high variance
industries, the entrepreneur makes for a natural-born leader [8] .

At the very core of entrepreneurial leadership is problem solving and decision

making. If there is a problem – they solve it. If there is a decision to be made – they
make it.

Anita Roddick, founder of the global retail chain The Body Shop, says [9] “I want to
define success by redefining it. For me it isn’t that solely mythical definition –
glamour, allure, power of wealth, and the privilege from care. Any definition of
success should be personal because it’s so transitory. It’s about shaping my own
destiny. … Entrepreneurs have this real belief that their lives are about services and

“Groups are lead to achievement by good leaders, supported all the way by great leaders but
achieve their own success with the very best of leaders” PB

M is for Meaning

Entrepreneurs start enterprises because they want to

make meaning. They have an inherent desire to change the world and to make the
world a better place. So, for the entrepreneur, making money becomes a means to that
end and not an end in itself. Richard Branson says “Above all, you want to create
something you are proud of…. I can honestly say that I have never gone into any
business purely to make money … I’ve had to create companies that I believe in
100%. These are companies I feel will make a genuine difference.”

Guy Kawasaki in his book ‘The Art of the Start’ [10] goes further to explain that
entrepreneurs can create the meaning, which will become the driving motivational
force behind their ventures, in one of three ways

1. To increase the quality of life and to change people’s lives for the better
2. To right a terrible wrong which is most prominent in the area of social entrepreneurship
3. To prevent the end of something good where but for a new innovative approach something
beautiful can be made to be sustainable again

“Purpose to Life? How about, never giving up, committing yourself to the continuous
development of your allotted talent and being the best possible influence for good in every corner
of the world in which you live” PB

N is for Never Giving Up

If the term ‘faith’ was not already an icon of religion, it would be the mantra of the
entrepreneur, because most entrepreneurs would declare, “if faith is an act of
believing in spite of the past or present circumstances, a hope unseen, an aspiration
unrealised, a destiny unclear – then faith is my mountain”
For understanding the concept of faith is no more complex than planting sunflower
seeds and with proper husbandry fully expecting that sunflowers will grow. For the
entrepreneur, the seed is their life long learning, husbandry is the development of their
character and the sunflowers are their enterprise, that will grow to sustainability when
a fertile environment meets the appropriately timed season.

It is this faith or belief that underpins the entrepreneurial trait to never give up. For
what others see as failure the entrepreneur see as either a learning, as a chance for
character development or as simply a barren environment or an improper timing. So,
they continue doggedly on their quest with great persistence working for the moment
when their time will come. Most of all, they never give up and never quit striving for
their success.

“Never give up on the hope that ‘Your time will come’.” PB

O is for Opportunistic

Entrepreneurs are opportunistic. In fact the synonym for the word

”opportunist” [11] is actually entrepreneur. But an important fact to make clear is that
they are not opportunistic about any or every opportunity – just theirs. Sure, their
natural comprehensive awareness affords them a view of the total situation and the
possibilities wrapped up in every option but it does not mean they action every
opportunity they see. In fact, entrepreneurs say no to hundreds of great opportunities
because they only have eyes for theirs.

As Tom Caprel [12] points out in his article “The Gold, The Opportunist and The
Entrepreneur”, those sad creative dreamers that do chase “every pot at the end of the
rainbow, will find it devoid of gold but full of broken hearts, dreams and bank
accounts … they fail as entrepreneurs because they are enticed by bright shiny objects
and seduced by the next new dot bomb and become too distracted by UFOs
(Unidentified Flying Opportunities)”

Having said that, entrepreneurs do develop an options portfolio and keep a constant
vigilance for significant changes in the environment and/or a chanced resource
discovery that may trigger a promotion from option to opportunity. Either way, they
are not searching for AN opportunity (like a lottery ticket) but THEIR opportunity
(the one that they are uniquely resourced to provide a solution to a need).

“If you are not centre stage in your own opportunity then you are just a bit player in someone
else’s.” PB

People and the Entrepreneur

P is for People

Although it is a common trait amongst entrepreneurs is that they like to be the boss, it
does not mean that they are elitist. They need to be in charge for practical reasons and
is not a status trip. In fact when in charge, entrepreneurs typically employ an
egalitarian style of management. Entrepreneurs are honourable people who would do
business on a handshake or promise (if they could) and tend to form strong
associations with others who share the same ethos.

Their temperament package radiates a certain charm that makes for binding
relationships, which inspires cooperation, confidence and loyalty. It is this genuine
relationship that entrepreneurs form with their financiers, partners, vendors, sub-
contractors, professionals and employees that supercharges their organisations and
though small in numbers is big in stature and capable of taking on the giants in any
industry. Being mostly generalists, entrepreneurs have no problems employing people
smarter than themselves. In fact, it is almost a prerequisite to their success that they

Of all the rare, immutable and un-substitutable resources an entrepreneur can secure
to build their enterprise, it is the people resources that is the most valuable. This is
why every person an entrepreneur meets is seen as a potential resource or teacher.
Entrepreneurs want you to teach them what they don’t know and if they perceive you
know too much, then they want to employ you. Right then!

“If you want to achieve something individually great, then don’t attempt it on your own” PB

Q is for Quirky
Entrepreneurs revel in the quirky. They add
it to their products, you will find it in the unusual parts of their assortment, your will
see it in their marketing and it is the endearing part of their service. It is a form of
creative, almost cheeky humor, that can only be produced by a person with boundless
self-esteem, who is confident in their offer and who understands that it is this very
quirkiness that creates the fond and lasting memory in the mind of their customers.

Seth Godin in his book “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being
Remarkable” states that in business, being the same is as good as being invisible. The
world is full of brown cows and to survive you need to stand out from the herd – you
need to create the Purple Cow. Entrepreneurs know this fact all too well.
You may be interested to know that the term ‘quirky entrepreneur’ has been used
extensively by media when describing entrepreneurs. It was used by the Los Angeles
Times when describing the founder of the candy empire Forrest Mars Sr.,
by Newsweek to describe Mike Bloomberg, it was used by Howard Kurtz, Roger L.
Simon the in their book Straight Man: Inside Wall Street’s Game of Money, Media,
and Manipulation to describe the founder of Jeff Bezos, by the Mail on
Sunday to describe the Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, by the International
Herald Tribune to describe Richard Branson, and by Jeff Cohen in his book Cable
News Confidential to describe the founder of CNN, Ted Turner. So it seems, if you’re
an entrepreneur … its OK to be quirky.

“The same’ is never recorded – ‘the quirky’ never forgotten” PB

R is for Risk
Most people think that the choices in life are to
take risks or to not take risk. This is not how entrepreneurs weight up the risks of
living. What entrepreneurs see is that risk is unavoidable, but you do get a choice in
life at to which risk you wish to take – to risk a failure that leads to the loss of
replaceable assets or to risk a failure that leads to the loss of one’s life. The
entrepreneur chooses the former because they perceive that a life is lost if it is lived
without significance, lived without meaning and lived without seeking to be the best
they can be. Entrepreneurs are fearful of a so called ‘risk-free’ life that ends in the
anguished regret of what might have been, of what could have been, of what should
have been. Compared to this life failure, an entrepreneur perceives their risk to be
actually quite small. For the entrepreneur, life is not just to survive, for everyone
ultimately fails at that, NO! It is to live with purpose. This thought, truly eats at the
entrepreneur’s soul: “if I don’t take a chance I will never know what I could have

There are hundreds of jobs, sporting feats and activities that we witness every week
that we believe are ‘too-risky’ for us, yet ask the expert performing them and they will
hardly even acknowledge any risk at all. Their natural gift, training and experience all
make it so. So too with entrepreneurs. To the untrained eye entrepreneurs take risks,
to the entrepreneur they are simply taking the next challenge after carefully evaluating
the risk and deciding to do it based on their ability to accommodate it. Anyway, the
entrepreneur places little faith in assets for security, preferring by far their coping
ability regardless of the threat.

Just as the concept of risk and reward is fundamental to the finance and investment
industry so it is with entrepreneurial living. The entrepreneur is not satisfied with the
mediocre life returns of pleasure and comfort preferring instead to strike out for a life
of fulfilment, joy, meaning and destiny. These rewards are so highly valued by the
entrepreneur that they will risk everything they own to have them. Entrepreneurs then
simply invest their lives to attain the highest return and willingly accept the risks that
this involves.

“Many a soul is lost to the risk–free life of irrelevance” PB

S is for Subjective Margins

The art of the entrepreneurial offer is to not fight with competitors on the battlefield of
price, but rather to shift the focus to the satisfaction of customer needs. They do this
by leveraging subjective or emotive margins. Subjective margins are the margins that
entrepreneurs achieve because they know how to perfectly position their offer in an
emotive arena where price for the customer is not the issue.

The real issue for the customer is the satisfaction of their emotive need and they will
willingly pay a price that has little relationship to the accounting costs of production
or the market price of another similar but poorly positioned good or service. The
following represent areas in which customers will willingly pay a premium to have
their subjective/emotive needs satisfied. (Urgency, Self Esteem, Pain Relief, Fear
Mitigation, Scarcity, Unique name, High Emotional Experience, Vital Small Cog,
High Sentimental Value or Indulgence)

“The problem with a life ruled by money is that it only sees the price – never the value” PB

T is for Timing
For entrepreneurs, timing is everything.
Experienced entrepreneurs know that many a successful venture happened because
they launched it in the right place at the right time. There often appears to be a large
element of luck in these ventures but what is unseen is the preparation time that took
place prior to the launch. The gathering of market intelligence, their positioning in the
emerging field, the securing of the people resource, the look-out for the environmental
trigger, their trial & error a few times to get it right, the organising of their personal
life and the thinking through of the business model which all laid the ground work
prior to the successful launch. Or as the 1st century Roman philosopher Seneca
said “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

“Success is all about timing – being there at the moment when it mattered as well as the 99 times
when it didn’t” PB

U is for Under the radar

Scratch the surface of any true entrepreneurs and you will find a revolutionary on a
mission to change the world. However, entrepreneurs soon learn that they achieve this
best by flying ‘under the radar’. That is, securing their entry into markets with
minimal notice or perceived threat ensuring the least negative reaction from
competitors, suppliers, partners or customers. They often are the wolf in sheep’s
clothing appearing to be like everyone else until the timing and strength is there to
reveal all. Entrepreneurs know that the status-quo in any field is a powerful force and
it is programmed to quickly and ruthlessly crush any sign of difference or deviation
from the mean.
So, the entrepreneur, instead of full frontal attack will appease, cajole and avoid
ruffling feathers until it is too late for others to counter respond i.e. by the time the
entrepreneurs full hand is revealed it is too late for others to mount a challenge.
Entrepreneurs will arrive at a sustainable position almost un-noticed by flying ‘under
the radar’ and will conquer more by stealth than by force. Arnold Kling in his
book “Under the Radar: Starting Your Internet Business without Venture
Capital” outlines the benefits that this strategy delivers when starting a new internet

To a large extent even this Google Knol project is

being launched ‘under the radar’. There is very little self promotion being done by
Google and very little response from them when they are attacked. Google’s knol
project is quietly adding features to improve the product and gaining traction in the
market almost unnoticed by rivals that have too quickly placed it in the non-relevant
and non-threat box. Whilst not privy to the Google mind, it seems that there is much
more in store for the Knol project that when fully released and promoted it will be too
late for competitors to respond.

“Entrepreneur – Revolutionary inside”

V is for Value-add

Unlike their other commercially engaged counterparts, the entrepreneur’s primary

goal in their commercial endeavour is to add value. As President Ángel Cabrera,
Ph.D [13] declared to an audience of entrepreneurs in Phoenix in October 2008
concerning the ‘other’ approach “Their focus is on extracting value, not creating
value,” Cabrera said. “If they can pay their employees less or treat them worse to
improve the bottom line, then that’s what they do.” He went on to then say “You
(entrepreneurs) are obsessed with creating value.”

As discussed in the introduction, both approaches outlined by Cabrera make money,

but each approach is adopted with a quite different mind-set. The entrepreneur makes
their money by taking a slice of the added value that they create for their customers
via their innovative products and services. To take Cabrera’s words further – “You
(entrepreneurs) are not looking at your business venture as a way of extracting value
away from others”. Unlike other operators in the field of commerce, entrepreneurs are
not in the business of ripping people off.

“There is a vast difference between exploiting an opportunity and exploiting a weakness. The
former adds the latter takes” PB

W is for Work & Play

The global entrepreneur Richard Branson said in a 2003 interview with Fortune “I
don’t think of work as work and play as play. It’s all living.” This is typical of the
entrepreneurial mind-set and quite possibility contributes to their remarkable good
health. It is the entrepreneurial promise ‘to do what you love and to love what you do’
so it is near impossible for the entrepreneur to tell when they are working and when
they are having fun. For them, this sort of hair splitting definition, the entrepreneur
leaves for others to identify.
This enjoyment of what they do leads to another typical response from entrepreneurs
– retire from what? Entrepreneurs have no plans to retire in fact have great trouble
understanding how you retire from living. Sure, they sell their enterprises from time to
time but it is not long before they are back into the thick of things with a new project
or idea. The sales pitch of the ‘get-rich-schemers’ to retire early, is definitely not
directed at the entrepreneur. Research [5] indicates that entrepreneurs are three times
more likely to indicate that they never intend to retire.

Perhaps the closest entrepreneurs could get to anything resembling this would be the
entrepreneurial concept of retirement. That is, to return all those favours and benefits
that have been bestowed on the entrepreneur throughout their life, back to a new
generation of start-ups by way of angel investing, mentoring and coaching.

“What a fulfilled life it is where work and play mesh so indistinguishably. Where both are pursued
with a spirit of excellence, displaying at all times an unconquerable passion and imbibing an
endless duty to love. Where every act is an expression of a deep sacred belief, the totality of
which is acknowledged by others as the ‘mastery of life’.”[14]
X is for X Factor

When Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines was asked [15] about the characteristics
of the successful entrepreneur that could not be learned he detailed “1. a reasonable
intelligence, 2. good health, 3. optimistic disposition, 4. lengthy attention span, 5.
perseverance, and 6. a love of people.” One could summarise these into three basic
points of intelligence, health and attitude of which Herb declared attitude of
paramount importance or the X factor that must be an inborn characteristic of the
entrepreneur. He carries this simple maxim all the way through to the hiring
process: “You hire attitude, everything else can be trained”

For Anita Roddick [16] the X factor was obsession and

she explains it in this way “Dysfunction is the essence of entrepreneurship. I’ve had
dozens of requests from places like Harvard and Yale to talk about the subject. It
makes me laugh that ivy leaguers are so keen to “learn” how to be entrepreneurs,
because I’m not convinced it’s a subject you can teach. I mean, how do you teach
obsession? Because it is obsession that drives the entrepreneur’s commitment to a
vision of something new.” She goes on to say that “Potential entrepreneurs are
outsiders. They are people who imagine things as they might be, not as they are, and
have the drive to change the world around them. Those are skills that business
schools do not teach.” She believes that the X factor is passion and imagination.

Whatever the X factor might be (attitude, passion, obsession, self confidence,

enthusiasm) most entrepreneurs believe there is one. Just like any field of human
endeavour some people have it – some don’t. For us, entrepreneurship is a destiny. A
calling. A sense that this is what we were meant to do. It is the one role that that both
creates the greatest good for others whilst still fulfilling the aspirations of the soul.

“The smugly talented know they can do better than those less gifted achievers – but they never
will.” PB

Y is for You

Entrepreneurs are people so totally engaged with the outside world that they can tend
to pay too little attention to their one greatest asset – themselves. It is paramount for
the entrepreneur to understand and accept what makes them tick. They need to accept
that to all others they will be ‘the black sheep’. This is normal. They need to
understand that whilst others climbed high up the pole of their specialised careers,
theirs will be a career of the generalist building more a mound of skills that allowed
for easy movement across many fields and skills. They need to accept that whilst not
always completing higher education studies they will become masters of their craft,
honed in the world of the practical hands-on.
Entrepreneurs need to know their place. They need to understand when they should
lead and when they should step back to allow other skill sets to manage the growing
Now whilst not part of their natural gift, entrepreneurs need to educate themselves on
the other half of business success – business acumen. The cheapest way to learn these
skills is through formal education, however most entrepreneurs choose the far more
expensive option from the ‘University of Hard Knocks’. Which ever way the learning
takes place, these are lessons that must be learned if the entrepreneur is ever going to
create a successful and sustainable enterprise.

Another unusual characteristic of the entrepreneur is the concept of self-branding.

They share this attribute with the show ponies and the egotists but again for different
reasons. Entrepreneurs know that they will be at the epicentre of any new venture and
so it is vital that they have a reputation that inspires trust, that demonstrates courage to
act alone if needs be, that copes effectively with the unforseen and that can create the
future. So, they have no hesitation in placing themselves at the forefront of any option
to volunteer, any option for publicity or any option that allows them to demonstrate or
build their reputation. It is the ‘hit they take for the team’ even though the team has
not yet been formed.

Anita Roddick again “We entrepreneurs are loners, vagabonds, troublemakers.

Success is simply a matter of finding and surrounding ourselves with those open-
minded and clever souls who can take our insanity and put it to good use.”

“It is a condition of living that we are compelled to withdraw

24hours of time each day from our account at the Bank of
Existence. What will you do with that time? Squander it on the
fleeting gratification of your senses? Will your use it to
acquire those decaying and life-absorbing assets? Will you
fritter it on the winds of nothing to do or will you invest it in
the incorruptible legacy for a fellow traveler’s betterment.” PB

Z is for Zest
Zest or passion is in the life-blood of the entrepreneur. As Anita
Roddick explains “An entrepreneur is very enthusiastic and dances to a different
drum beat, but never considers success as something which equates to personally
wealth. That never enters our consciousness. We have incredible enthusiasm, and I
think part of the success of any entrepreneur is energy. If one has that energy one can
create a wonderful enthusiasm.” This enthusiasm is infectious and plays a key part in
the creation of the founding team and the maintenance of its mantra. It is a
characteristic of the entrepreneur that their locus of control is within them and is least
affected by the changing pressures of the external environment. The entrepreneur’s
zest comes from their belief that they can create and control their future and not
simply live a life at the mercy of either either fate or providence.

“The zest of life actually comes from having to make a choice, in a state of frailty and in a world of
uncertainty whilst being fully conscious of the painful consequences of getting it all so wrong.”