Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Not All Entrepreneurs are Cut From the Same Cloth

entrepreneur-dnaAnyone who works with entrepreneurs will tell you that all are different. Some are really inventors, who view the challenges of building a business as a necessary evil. Others are really marketers out to make money fast, and believe that they can entice customers to any offering. Some just want to change the world and make it a better place. But none have any lock on success.

I’ve always wondered if there was some way that I could quickly deduce a new entrepreneur’s “sweet spot,” and optimize my mentoring to those strengths and weaknesses, maybe similar to the Myers-Briggs type indicator for business professionals. I just saw an interesting step in that direction via a new book “Entrepreneurial DNA,” by Joe Abraham, with his assessment web site.

His framework seems to be picking up some traction, and is already in use informally by several entrepreneurship platforms, including StartupAmerica, and CoFoundersLab. His methodology measures an entrepreneur’s fit or DNA in each of four quadrants – Builder, Opportunist, Specialist, and Innovator (BOSI), defined at a high level as follows:

  1. Builder. The Builder loves building a business from the ground up. These are the ultimate chess players in the game of business, always looking to be two or three moves ahead of the competition. They are often described as driven, focused, cold, ruthless, and calculating. Many might say Donald Trump epitomizes this category.

  2. Opportunist. The Opportunist is the speculative part of the entrepreneur in all of us. It’s that part of our being that wants to be in the right place at the right time, leveraging timing to make as much money as possible. If you ever felt enticed to jump into a quick money deal, like a real-estate quick-flip, or an IPO, that was your Opportunist side showing.

  3. Specialist. The Specialist entrepreneur will enter one industry and stick with it for 15 to 30 years. They build strong expertise, but often struggle to stand out in a crowded marketplace of competitors. Picture the graphic designer, the IT expert, or the independent accountant or attorney. We all know many good ones here.

  4. Innovator. You will usually find the Innovator entrepreneur in the “lab” of the business working on their invention, recipe, concept, system, or product that can be built into one or many businesses. The challenge with an Innovator is to focus as hard on the business realities as the product possibilities. Too many Innovators are like Dean Kamen, still struggling with the Segway Human Transporter, while holding 440 other device patents.

Of course, discovering your entrepreneur type is only the beginning. After that, it’s all about capitalizing on your strengths, shoring up your weaknesses, and building a personal plan that doesn’t work against you. The drivers for your strategic plan come from at least four directions:

  • World of experts (books, consultants, webinars). You go all over the country, the world, and the Web searching for “best practices” in marketing, finance, planning, and funding. Ultimately, most get the best help from business advisors and mentors.
  • Internal forces (your startup team). Every human being internal to your business and investors bring a certain culture. Some are very positive. Others are more conservative or even negative. Sometimes you inherit the culture from family and predecessors.
  • External forces (competitors and customers). All too often, entrepreneurs set their strategy around what competitors are doing. Or they get strong feedback from early adopters and outspoken customers who may not be representative of the real potential.
  • Prospects (potential opportunity). In the pressure of early revenue, it’s easy to be bent toward what’s in front of you today, rather than follow your strength and your vision. Serving prospects that don’t fit your entrepreneur type, like moving away from your specialty, can be a disastrous strategy.

Overall, I see real value in using this methodology in conjunction with incubators, business accelerators, and mentoring. I’m not yet convinced that anyone has a fully automated system that will nail your entrepreneurial DNA, and make you succeed, despite the unpredictable business and personal realities.

But I see a real opportunity here for every entrepreneur to optimize his impact, and his personal satisfaction, with a minimum of effort. I challenge each of you to take a hard look at what makes you tick. Is your strategic plan (if you have one) a wishful dream or a perfect match for your DNA?

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on Young Entrepreneur on 01/28/2013 ***


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