“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.” —Professor Howard Stevenson
There’s a certain drive for entrepreneurship that lies within most business owners. A motivation deep inside, pushing us to persevere even when the rest of the world is telling us to quit. More than ever, the drive is growing within business owners across the country: the number of new entrepreneurs ages 55–64 has increased from 15% to 25% since 1996.
Some call it hustle; others refer to this as “it” factor. But what is “it” factor anyway? And are you either born with it or are you not? Is it a set of genetic traits, a series of learned behaviors or maybe a combination of the two? When it comes to successful business owners, are they born, with entrepreneurship coursing through their veins, or made, conditioned by their environments and the people that surround them?
Was I born ready to start a company in my 20s? Did my influential parents set me, and my siblings, on a path to entrepreneurship (four of the six of us are founders, CEOs or presidents of companies)? Or did I end up here due to some combination of all those factors, stirring within me a desire to drive innovation in the small business loan industry.
The Nature vs. Nurture Debate
Many behavioral science studies have been conducted, arguing both sides of the nature vs. nurture debate. With regard to entrepreneurship, research is generally focused on the likelihood of starting a business; this has shown to be more closely tied to your genetic makeup than your upbringing.
But when it comes to whether or not you’ll actually be successful in your entrepreneurial pursuits, well that’s a different story. Being genetically predisposed to starting a business doesn’t mean your business will succeed. And it doesn’t mean that if you weren’t born an entrepreneur, you can’t become one, and a successful one at that.
A recent study of Norwegian business owners found that those who follow in their fathers’ footsteps are noticeably more successful after four years of operation than those who don’t enter the same industries as their fathers. Researchers refer to these business owners as dinner table human capital—children who obtain industry knowledge through their parents which in turn shapes what type of businesses they start and how well those businesses perform.
Modern psychological research points to the fact that it’s nearly impossible to separate nature and nurture. Our genes influence the way we experience our environments, and our environments and experiences influence our natural tendencies. In other words, nature is nurture and vice versa.
It’s Not About Destiny, It’s About Drive
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart, whether you’re genetically predisposed to it or not; it takes a particular kind of passion and discipline to get out of your comfort zone. Think about some of the most prominent disruptors who have defined the way we live our lives today: Amazon, Starbucks, Apple—these companies did not come out of the gate as Fortune 500 corporations.
They all started with a fire, a vision and a desire to change the current state of affairs. Not every entrepreneur will be the next Jeff Bezos, and they don’t have to be. Innovation to disrupt the market can stay “small” and yet create ripple effects that impact the lives of millions of people around the world.
We know that most small businesses fail within the first five years; there’s obviously something unique about the ones that succeed and continue to create jobs (62% of net new jobs for the past two decades). But I would say, it’s not “it” factor. There’s no single characteristic that guarantees entrepreneurial success. It takes all types of strengths and individuals to drive innovation, change and revolution.
I truly believe that success is about a steadfast resolve and refusal to quit. Entrepreneurship is more than dreaming and innovating, it’s a way of life. It’s enduring the long hours and the late nights and the uncertainty over making ends meet. It’s risk-taking, mistake-making and change-embracing.
What Type of Entrepreneur Are You?
Think about the last time you had a rough day as an entrepreneur. When you looked in the mirror as you were being pushed to the brink of quitting and a voice inside of you said: “Keep going.”
How would you describe the person looking back at you?
An Endurer, exhausted but steadfast and devoted to succeeding.
A Warrior, battling the big box competitors and the naysayers day in and day out.
A Visionary, committed to sharing your innovation and insight with others.
A Revolutionary, angered by the broken American financing ecosystem and ready to be part of a positive change.
A Truth Teller, tired of red tape and runaround, eager to bypass bureaucracy and get to work.
A Craftsman, upholding quality and workmanship above all else.
Or a Competitor, focused on making strides and outpacing the rest of the pack.
By Brock Blake