Entrepreneur profile - what’s yours?

Resilience, creativity and discipline - we often hear these words used to describe the strengths of an entrepreneur. However, looking at them more closely, what do they actually mean? Mihai Moghior, partner of GRI (Silicon Valley company that offers a suite of management tools, based on behavioral assessment), was kind enough to explain it to us.

In what context, at what cost and with what results could someone be an entrepreneur?  

A person's talent consists of: knowledge, experience, intelligence, skills, values and behavioral (personality) traits. All these put in a certain context and in a certain combination can generate certain results, and, if everything goes well, the desired results. 

Nowadays most knowledge is very easily accessible and transferable. So it comes down to knowing where to look and how to put all the info together. It is also very true that in order to accumulate solid expertise in certain areas of high complexity, a solid education, formed over time, is also necessary.  

Skills are acquired by training, mostly by doing and repeating things until you get proficient at it.   

Gathering knowledge over time, learning new skills and refining old ones, facing increasingly complex cases and increasing the decision-making autonomy may result in a solid experience and an increased level of maturity, but this is not necessarily true in all situations.  

Experience is not "what happens to you", but "what you do with what happens to you". Experience means a lot of exposure, trial and failure and trying again with new approaches (learning), then failure or success and so on. Unfortunately, there are no recipes or shortcuts. And it never ends and there is always room for more and better. 

It would be preferable for an entrepreneur to have an above average level of intelligence, but not necessarily exceptional. A very high IQ (130 and above) can sometimes raise certain challenges or barriers. Such people have a harder time adapting, can be more reserved in terms of human interaction, have special needs and they can feel that those around them are wasting their time and don't rise to their level. Studies show that there is a correlation of 0.6 (i.e. existing, but quite weak) between the IQ and how one approaches things in real life, including for those working in complex fields that require a high level of accuracy or studying for PhDs. 

Given all of the above, we would be tempted to conclude that, in the end, an entrepreneur does not need an exceptional level of intelligence, knowledge can be acquired, skills are learned and experience comes by doing, so entrepreneurship is quite accessible to almost anyone...  

However, the questions that remain are: 

  • What separates successful entrepreneurs from the others? 

  • What traits do they all have in common? 

According to several articles published by Forbes, (based on a series of studies carried out in the US by universities such as Harvard, Stanford or Pennsylvania), investors ("VCs" - Venture Capitalists) have one main criterion in mind as a predictor for success when they select the founders of start-up companies in which will invest: “grit”. 

"Grit" means "strength of character, courage, bravery, determination, backbone, endurance", and in psychology grit is defined as a positive, non-cognitive trait, related to an individual's passion to pursue a long-term mission or goal, combined with a strong motivation to overcome obstacles and achieve those goals.  

During the 20 years of studying the behaviors, motivations and drives of individuals and analyzing thousands of entrepreneurs both from Silicon Valley and from other parts of the world (including Romania), GRI (www.gri.co) has identified a series of behavioral traits that most of them (over 65%) have in common: 

  • the need to make an impact on the environment, to set goals and objectives and pursue them with determination and authority,  

  • a high degree of autonomy in decision-making, ambition, firmness and a competitive spirit, capable of making/doing unpopular decisions/actions, 

  • are permanently looking for challenges and opportunities,  

  • direct communication, based on arguments, with a possible dose of aggressiveness or even arrogance,  

  • impatience, need for variety, look for and offer quick answers, expeditious with good results, well-developed sense of urgency, comfortable with working under pressure and quickly, 

  • take initiative, challenge the status quo and initiate change in a proactive way, 

  • easily accept the consequences of their decisions, 

  • take well-calculated risks, without being perfectionists and without getting too involved in the process details or follow-up activities, and rather prefer new, unconventional and unstructured approaches, 

  • find it very hard to delegate authority, but delegate details more easily, 

  • some entrepreneurs may be more sociable, others more analytical, but most are somewhere in the middle in this regard: there is a balance and slight versatility between working with people, communicating positively and empathetically and influencing others, on the one hand, and critically analyzing, working with the technical and tangible aspects of the tasks, with figures, plans and facts, on the other hand. 

  • Human personality has a certain degree of elasticity. If a person is naturally inclined towards certain behaviors, they may still adapt when they feel a certain pressure to behave differently from the environment, the job, or the persons with whom they interact. As long as the adaptation has a low or moderate intensity, the individual's behavior can be shaped. But when there are very large differences between the person’s natural inclinations and the behavioral demands of the role they have to play, then this adaptation requires too much effort to be sustained in the long term, thus leading to anxiety or burn-out.  In this case it becomes necessary to review or change the role, because it is clear that things are not working.  

What happens to the remaining 35% of the entrepreneurs (who have behavioral traits different than those mentioned above)? 

10% manage to handle the behavioral adaptation without major efforts, the need for adaptation they feel being small or moderate. However, 25% remain who have behavioral inclinations significantly different from those necessary for an entrepreneur. They usually team up with other persons who bring along certain behavioral traits necessary for the entrepreneurial approach. Furthermore, this team can have the advantage of some behavioral assets that entrepreneurs sometimes lack, such as: orientation towards team harmony and active listening to the needs of others, more friendliness and collaborative spirit, a bit more empathy and warmth in approach, greater attention to details, to processes, to rules, to structure and to quality, more caution and less exposure to risk, a bit more calmness, methodical approach and thoroughness, more patience in approaching routine activities). 

In conclusion 

There are people who have behavioral inclinations "made" for entrepreneurship and, in general, they can become "serial entrepreneurs", not being, though, the most suitable for managing an already developed and established business. There are people who manage to adapt their behavior in the start-up phase, starting businesses that they manage to run successfully throughout the maturity phase as well. But there are also people with less inclination towards entrepreneurship (in terms of motivation and behavioral preferences) who team up well with others, especially at the beginning, and later find a role that suits them better (in the technical area, in sales , in consulting or customer retention, etc.), as the business develops and settles.  

There are therefore many forms in which this "inclination" for entrepreneurship manifests itself - and many traits one can find in an entrepreneur. What’s important is to figure out which ones you already have and which ones you need to work on or supplement with those of the co-founder or the team. 

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