Startup general interest

Characteristics of a winning entrepreneur

By June 9, 2010 7 Comments

Luke Johnson has a good column in the FT today (reproduced here on Luke’s website) in which he talks about the importance of entrepreneurs to the economy and hence how we would all be better off as a society we were better able to identify the good ones.  He looks at some of the academic approaches to this subject over the years before offering his own thoughts on the subject, which is where it gets interesting. 

Firstly, entrepreneurs are all different:

By their nature, entrepreneurs are rule-breakers who do not conform to sets of rules about their traits and what inspires them …. [and] The sheer breadth of personalities who ascend to the summit shows that there is no single gene for success.

But Luke does hold one firm view about entrepreneurs:

strengths are more important than weaknesses. If you have one or two remarkable talents, they may carry you to the top in spite of many shortcomings. So, if you are a wonderful salesman, or a brilliant inventor, or a phenomenal picker of people – it might be enough, even if you are a poor general manager

Two good points.  I particularly like the second one – startups need to do something exceptional to succeed, and that means they need exceptional talents, more than they need individuals without weaknesses.  That said, at the company level there obviously can’t be any critical weaknesses, which means that talented but flawed individuals need to understand their shortcomings and allow other team members to compensate.

I would go a little further than Luke, saying that passion, commitment, and intelligence (as much EQ as IQ) are also present in the vast bulk of entrepreneurs that go on to be winners.

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