Do you have what it takes to start a business? If you do a web search on "Type A Personality" I think you'll find that most definitions include the word "entrepreneur" in them. There are a number of different personality tests. The Meyer's Briggs test is popular, but it seems to be a little more abstract then the "type" tests. Traditionally, there was either Type A or Type B. But I found one description on the web that separated personalities into 4 types. I personally like this rating system. My readers digest version, with some of my own additions, is as follows:
Type A personalities are the leaders, risk takers, and independent thinkers. They don't like to waste time with the details, and often look for better ways to solve problems or as the saying goes "to build a better mousetrap". A type "A" person can multitask, moving from one thought to another and back without missing a beat. These people dislike routine, but will take on a routine task in order to achieve a greater goal.
Type B personalities are the socializers, love to be part of groups, and be the center of attention. Many TV and radio personalities and great speakers are Type B. It's important for Type B people to be well liked and are talkative and outgoing.
Type C personalities are very detail-oriented. Your stereotypical accountant, engineer, and programmer is type C. They are very neat, orderly, and sometimes predictable. A type "C" personality will check all the facts before making a decision.
Type D personalities are resistant to change, and do not mind doing the same thing every day. They are content and compassionate. I would say underachievers fall into this category.
It takes so much motivation, risk taking, and challenge to start a new business, that I dare say one has to be Type A to successfully start a business. A Type B or C might be successful if they have some Type A traits or a partner who is Type A. A Type D person wouldn't even be reading this.
My Take on 5 Personality Traits of an Entrepreneur
- Desire to build a better mousetrap
- Willing to take risks
- Supportive family and friends
- Motivated to a point of being obsessive
- Jack of all trades, master of none
Desire to Build a Better Mousetrap
The most obvious of all traits. The desire to improve a process, a product, or revolutionize an industry is usually what gets us excited about the idea in the first place. That doesn't mean you have to have an idea to be an entrepreneur, but you must have the desire to discover that idea.
Willing to Take Risks
I can't stress how important this is. When running a business, especially high tech and software, risks must be taken every day. The challenge is deciding which risk to take. The first risk is leaving your comfy day job. That initial step is required, and also one of the most difficult to make. However it isn't as big a risk as one might be led to believe. If you're working for a larger company, you're liable to be their "shining star", one of their few employees that could easily climb the corporate ladder. As long as you don't burn your bridges, they will probably hire you back if your start-up business fails.
Some risks an entrepreneur might take are for example, hiring an employee whom you can only afford if sales increase as you plan. In fact every hiring decision that's made in a small company is a risk. The last thing you need is a lawsuit on your hands. Most risks are financial in some way, but there are others, like the risk of telling your large client how many employees you have, or taking on that consulting job to pay the bills, letting your core product development slide.
Supportive Family and Friends
Starting a company can really take an emotional toll on you and your family, and consume nearly all your time. It's probably best to start a business before a spouse and kids, however don't let that stop you. I did it with a newborn baby and could only have done it with a supportive wife. I was able to work 100+ hour weeks for an entire year while she took care of practically everything else. I could spend a couple hours of time with my family in the evening, then get back to it after everyone went to bed. There is a balance here though, as it's important to take some time out to be with your family. My wife understood my vision and made the sacrifice, just as I had done.
Motivated to the Point of Being Obsessive
Whether you are bootstrapping a company yourself or seeking venture funding, motivation is the key ingredient to be a successful entrepreneur. Did you always have at least one interest that consumed you? Have you been a competitive athlete, dedicating a few years of your life to being the best you could be? In college, were you apt to do whatever it took to pass (or get an A) in a course? Have you ever established a crazy goal like riding your bike across the country, and actually achieved that goal? If I were to interview a candidate to start a business, these are the types of experiences that I'd like to see.
I could have labeled this trait "motivated", but I don't think that's strong enough. Being motivated and obsessive about a difficult goal is usually what it takes to achieve that goal. Just make sure you obsess about the right things.
Jack of All Trades, Master of None
When running a business, you'll be doing a little bit of everything. And you have to be good at everything you do. However you don't have to be a master of everything (in fact, I think that's impossible). If you are one to specialize in just one thing, then running a business might not be for you. You'll want to find a partner that's more versatile so you can concentrate entirely on your idea.
In my case, I'm a jack of all trades. I can design software, write software in a few languages, I'm pretty good in math, can get by in differential calculus even though it took a lot of work. I'm a pretty good engineer, a decent businessperson, I can get away with speaking and presenting, and I'm a fairly effective at writing. I'm not a master of any of these things, but each of of these abilities is crucial when running a company. If you need a master at something, you can eventually hire that person. I do my best to hire people that are smarter than me.
I am by no means an expert. I can only talk about personal experiences with my company, Atalasoft. The personality I outlined above is pretty much who I am and with that personality I was able to start a company in a tough market. If you don't fall into my narrow view of an entrepreneur's personality, please don't be discouraged! I'm sure every personality type has had some success in starting a business. I encourage anyone with a good idea and passion, to start a new business. It's rewarding in more ways than one. Feel free to comment and good luck!