There are two sides to every debate, and the “what makes an entrepreneur” argument has raged for decades with neither side able to conclusively prove their case. There are many who believe that an entrepreneur must possess personality traits such as vision, passion and drive that are innate and cannot be taught. Others argue that the skills of evaluating opportunities, motivating people and operating a business are easily passed on to eager students looking to be entrepreneurs. The truth is that both sides are right and it’s time for a compromise: Entrepreneurs are born and made. Some people may be natural entrepreneurs and immediately open a business, others will have studied and trained long and hard before doing so, and while each may enjoy some success, neither will be as successful as the person who possesses the inherent qualities and has spent the time to get the education and experience of the business world.
A lot of studies and research have been done on this particular matter. In the beginning many theorists believe that people are either born entrepreneur or they are not. Professor of Psychology Alan Jacobowitz, after conducting interviews to more than 500 entrepreneurs in a period of 3 years, concludes that entrepreneurs are born not made. He maintains that his subjects share common characteristics, which include: restlessness, independence, a tendency to be a loner, and extreme self confidence. Still, other researchers maintain that there are other personality characteristics that are uniquely entrepreneurial including being innovative, action oriented, high on need for personal control and highly autonomous.
In addition to this, Jacobowitz also devised a chronological schema of entrepreneurial indicator that he calls the five ages of entrepreneur. The ages are early childhood exposure, trouble in school, problems with work, desire to risk, and bliss in business independence. Jacobowitz believes that entrepreneurial aptitude is static, which means that people are either born with the said characteristic or not. Initially this theory was supported by the majority of theorists but other scholars criticize that it has yet to be empirically proven.
John Kao, in his attempt to define entrepreneur in a more satisfying manner, holds that they are catalysts. They make things happen. They use creativity to conceive new things and zeal to implement them. In short, they are both creator and innovator. They both generate new idea and serve as the human vehicle by which implementation of that idea occurs. They take the ball and run with it, overcoming obstacles in the way. Still others have also suggested what they term as entrepreneurial traits; Thomas and his colleague summarized the following traits in what they call the characteristics of entrepreneur distilled from 50 research studies. These traits include: Total commitment, determination, and perseverance; Drive to achieve and grow; Opportunity and goal orientation; Taking initiative and personal responsibility; Persistent problem solving; Realism and a sense of humor; Seeking and using feedback; Internal locus of control; Calculated risk-taking and risk-seeking; Low need for status and power; Integrity and reliability.
In many instances, entrepreneurs are often described as impulsive, gambling adventurer, intoxicated by his or her own adrenaline. But though they put themselves at risk, they are actually motivated to achieve something greater, which is what separates them from the rest of people. Research also shows that they are more of a risk manager rather than risk-seeker. In addition, McLelland’s work on achievement motivation may also help to understanding the entrepreneurship. McLelland holds that human beings are driven by 3 motives: the need for achievement (accomplishing things), for affiliation (being with others) and for power (controlling others). Of these, the need for achievement is considered to be most relevant in understanding the entrepreneur.
McLelland further maintains that this particular need derives from people who want to be responsible for solving their problems, setting their goals and reaching these goals through their own efforts. In addition to this they also desire some kind of measure for their accomplishments. This need for achievement is highly linked to entrepreneurial tendency. The entrepreneurial characteristics largely refer to innate qualities, which separate entrepreneurs from other people who do not seem to possess entrepreneurial traits. These qualities are what drive them to have a vision and remain motivated to pursue their lifelong goals either for personal or practical reasons. It is these qualities that in turn provide jobs for people.
Trait theories are not completely condoned by entrepreneurial researchers. Though many agree with what Jacobowitz identifies as entrepreneurial-type characteristics, mostly choose a more dynamic perspective on the matter. Trait theory approach does not provide a distinction particularly to those of managers “because traits that are used to describe the characteristics of an entrepreneur can just as easily apply to many managers: it lacks specificity, refers largely to men, and is not applicable in all cultures. In his book, he further holds that “entrepreneurship is environmentally determined”, which means that there are certain conditions that will encourage entrepreneurial activities. This includes capital availability, mechanisms for realizing value, and availability of other resources namely human resources, information resources such as libraries and data banks, and infrastructure resources such as inexpensive space. Other factors would also prove useful in creating an atmosphere conducive to entrepreneurial environment; media attention, idea-generating institution, and cultural environment.
David Burnett claims that entrepreneurs can be supplied if two important factors are present: opportunity and willingness to become an entrepreneur. According to Praag, opportunity “is the possibility to become self-employed if one wants to.” And willingness is the relative valuation of work in self-employment compared to one’s other options for employment. An individual’s willingness is positive if self-employment is considered as the best available career option, thus inherently affected by the anticipated market incentives that are available for would be entrepreneurs, namely and economic benefits.
The supply of entrepreneurship is dependent on both individual level factors and general economic factors. Therefore policymakers can foster potential entrepreneurs by creating a supportive atmosphere through initiative market reforms that both increase the market incentives and the availability of capital that available for entrepreneurs.
Krueger and Brazeal offer a dynamic model in their approach towards understanding the entrepreneurial behaviors. It suggests that entrepreneurial intention is based on the interaction between personal characteristics, perceptions, values, beliefs, background, and environment (situational context). They base their approach on Shapero’s models of the entrepreneurial event in which entrepreneurship is defined as “the pursuit of an opportunity irrespective of existing processes”.
Basically the model places emphasis on the notion that beliefs, perceptions and assumptions are learned within the context of a given environment (such as business or community). The attitudes and perceptions bring about intentions, which in turn affect behaviors. Through indirect relationship, the Krueger and Brazeal model proposes the following order: individual’s perceptions, attitudes and assumptions are formed through environment or event. This later translates into intention, or potential, which is reflected in behavior. Thus, this approach suggests that entrepreneurial not only can be learned but can vary across individuals and situations.
Naffziger even suggests a step further by stating that the intention to act entrepreneurially is influenced by the interaction of several factors namely individual characteristics, individual environment, business environment, an individual’s personal set of goal, and the existence of a viable business idea. They will make comparisons between their perceptions and probable outcome intended targets, intended behavior and actual outcomes. If the outcomes meets or exceeds perceived outcomes, positive behavior toward entrepreneurial endeavors is reinforced. The same thing occurs if otherwise takes place.
Though at the dawn of entrepreneurial researches, many believed that entrepreneurs were born, things have changed now. A lot has been understood about the nature of this idea. The processes involved in the business startups have been observed and analyzed to help people better equipped in embarking an entrepreneurial attempt. An increasing number of higher learning institutions, namely tertiary college education, support the idea that entrepreneurship can be taught.
While these schools may not produce entrepreneurs of Ford and Gates caliber, persuasive arguments for this notion have been made. The following examples would be cases in point in entrepreneurship-led development strategies further showing that entrepreneurs can actually be made.
Conclusively, I would say that while some people are born to be successful entrepreneurs, those who aren’t born with such quality gift can learn and train to be such. Hence, entrepreneurs are born and made.