If you answer yes to all of the following questions, then you are definitely, without question, an entrepreneur:
Congratulations, you have reached the end of the test. Just send me your mailing address and credit card number, and your certificate will be in the mail. Eventually.
Or, in other words, there is no test.
For those new to reading this blog I explore themes related to building (mostly) software companies in the realm of the venture-backed start-up world, so please keep this in mind when reading, as many of these comments may be less relevant if what you’re interested in doing is opening a “lifestyle” company. But still, it probably couldn’t hurt to read.
An interesting piece appeared recently by Seth Kravitz, Is this Worth it? where he takes on the issue of “do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?” This in turn was sparked by a blog post on the Harvard Business Review by Daniel Isenberg.
To try and summarize the personality quirks needed to start a business in a set of questions seem to me to be a bit folly. I can’t give you any one set of criteria that you can use as a measuring stick to see whether or not you have the right stuff. You will either have the drive to start something on your own or with friends (being aware of all the risks you are taking when you go into business with friends or family), or you won’t, preferring the security of that next paycheck. Or unemployment insurance, if you happened to have followed an entrepreneur who perhaps overestimated his abilities (yes, I will explore this some time in the future). It may be that today you don’t have it in you but in the future you will, and it’s just as likely that you have the bug now, but eventually you get cured.
In summary, it appears that Isenberg thinks that the entrepreneurial spirit is defined by disdain for others, ADD, hubris, and a slight dopamine deficiency.
His checklist seems to ignore the aspects of failure that are inherent in starting any business, and the potential entrepreneur’s understanding of this reality.
What he does get right is that neither “I like taking risks” nor “I want to get rich” are on the list. Neither of them are sufficient or proper motivation for founding a start-up. If you like taking risks then consider alligator-wrestling or something similar – if what you have in mind is risking someone else’s capital, yes, even venture capital, with abandon, then the proper use of “abandon” in this context would be to abandon your plans.
If what you have in mind is being rich, then there are two words you need to know: “liquidation preference”.
Seth Kravitz, however, takes the pessimist’s view. Although he did clarify his earlier post he is painting an extremely aggressive one-man-against-the-rest-of-the-world picture. Listen, if you thrive on antagonism, then starting a company is not for you. There are so many, often delicate, relationships that need to be cultivated and nurtured.
Especially if you are looking for a lifestyle company, personal time is important. In Kravitz’ world, at least from his checklist, you trade your personal life for? I’m not really sure. But if I was investing in you then I would want to see some measure of balance. If you’re working non-stop with very little rest your performance will undoubtedly suffer. And I would have to wonder if you can work in an orderly fashion, delegate, and be in control of the situation.
Here’s another quiz:
Why do ducks have webbed feet?
(To put out forest fires.)
Why do elephants have large feet?
(To put out burning ducks.)
Based on Kravitz’ list, the primary attribute an entrepreneur needs is the ability to put out fires. Which is why I’m going to send him the ducks. Then the elephants.