By Maria Valdez Haubrich
Are entrepreneurs made, or born? In other words, are the characteristics needed to be a successful small business owner innate or can they be learned? According to a new study by Ernst & Young, the answer to this puzzle is…well, a bit of both.
The study, Nature or Nurture: Decoding the Entrepreneur, surveyed 685 entrepreneurs worldwide as well as winners of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. The results challenge the notion that entrepreneurs tend to start businesses without a formal education and without experiencing corporate life.
Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents did not start their first business until they were age 30 or over. Almost 60 percent said they had previously worked in a corporate environment before striking out on their own.
Asked what was the most important source of learning that helped them with their business, one-third of respondents said it was their experience as an employee, 30 percent said it was higher education, and 26 percent said it was a mentor or mentors.
“Entrepreneurial leaders are defined as much by their early business experience, cultural background and external environment as they are by any innate personal characteristics,” said Maria Pinelli, Global Vice Chair Strategic Growth Markets for Ernst & Young, in announcing the study results. “Nurture, not nature, does appear to be more important in shaping the entrepreneurial mindset.”
But not so fast. At the same time, the study found that successful entrepreneurs share certain behaviors and attitudes that are differentiate them from the average corporate employee or CEO. When asked to name the top three most important qualities of an entrepreneurial leader, more than three-fourths of those surveyed said ‘having a vision’, 73 percent said ‘passion’ and 64 percent said ‘drive’.
“These findings highlight that most successful entrepreneurs share a unique combination of seeing opportunity where others see only risk,” said Pinelli. “And they tend to be optimists and believe they can succeed despite the fact that everyone else is telling them they cannot.”
For those who’ve got the entrepreneurial combination of nature and nurture, starting just one business is not enough. Sixty percent had started three or more companies, 20 percent had launched six or more and 10 percent said they had founded more than 10 companies so far.
Image by Flickr user Horia Varlan (Creative Commons)Google+