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The six fingered hand of entrepreneurs


True entrepreneurs are focused, resourceful, passionate, and driven to succeed. They’re pioneers discovering new lands, mapping the way forward, comfortable fighting on the front line.

The great ones are ready to be laughed at and criticised. They’re too busy working towards their dream to let anyone else with lesser ambitions put them off.

Forward thinking, they see the world through a lens of opportunity. This in contrast to others who see how things may not work. Courage and a thick skin are key, as is an open mind.

So what’s our point?

With all this in mind, it was interesting to find that, several years ago, New Zealand forest products company Carter Holt Harvey (CHH) – considered by many as an old economy company – initiated an internal program to find innate entrepreneurs.

CHH hoped to find ways to come up with new ideas to produce new products, new revenue, and new markets. No small task, then.

They defined their version of entrepreneurship as the Six Fingered Hand (not to be confused with the Six-Fingered Man, who killed my father…)

Craig Knox, the then chief executive of CHH New Ventures Division, describes how they came up with the concept.

“We did some research on what makes an entrepreneur, how they think and so on. Then we put it all together with our own experiences and came up with a way of explaining it that we hope makes sense.”

CHH determined that entrepreneurs had the following attributes:

  • They were chameleon-like. Able to shuffle ideas into new combinations, think laterally, learn quickly and adapt existing knowledge for new situations
  • They possessed a lot of grit. Determination grounded in vision, optimism and the ability to focus gave them the ability to overcome significant obstacles
  • They didn’t mind going to the extreme. High risk tolerance and the capacity to be comfortable with and operate efficiently in a situation that contains risk and uncertainty was a prevalent feature
  • They were glass-half-full kinda people. Seeing opportunities where others were overwhelmed enabled them to turn problems into opportunity. Even more importantly, failure wasn’t a reason to retreat
  • They gave off leadership vibes. Or, as CHH put it, a sense of well-being combined with a self-starting mindset that allows the effective translation of their vision, inspiring commitment and motivation in others
  • They were hungry. No, not for supersized fries (although…) The natural entrepreneur, according to CHH, sported undivided focus on winning. This, in turn, builds the endurance required to push themselves to the absolute limit

If you’re an entrepreneur you should enjoy seeing this list of characteristics. ‘How valid are they?’ you ask. The jury’s still out. However, you can often see the characteristics of many successful entrepreneurs through the lens of the Six Fingered Hand.

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Visit www.barrett.com.au