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What makes an entrepreneur? Ernst & Young takes a stab [REPORT: Nature or Nurture: Decoding the Entrepreneur]


According to Ernst & Young, there is no entrepreneur gene. However, many do possess certain characteristics that are vital to their success. They are not born business geniuses. They are optimistic, relentless and hard working people who have the discipline to turn their dreams into reality.

For its report titled Nature or Nurture: Decoding the Entrepreneur, business advisory behemoth Ernst & Young surveyed 685 entrepreneurs from all over the world and interviewed winners of its Entrepreneur of the Year award.

The report found that 58% worked as an employee in a corporate environment before launching his or her own enterprise and that “experience as an employee” was the most cited reason for success among entrepreneurs (33%), followed by “higher education” (30%) and “mentors” (26%).

“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.

“Nurture, not nature, does appear to be more important in shaping the entrepreneurial mindset,” she added.

Still, the study found that 55% of the entrepreneurs started their first business before turning 30, while 31% started their first venture between the ages of 30 and 39.

The biggest challenges

According to the study, the biggest challenge entrepreneurs face — perhaps not surprisingly — is a lack of funding, cited by 33% of the respondents. This problem was followed by staff recruitment and the lack of know-how, both representing 19% of answers.

The top qualities

According to the report, the most important qualities of an entrepreneurial leader are “vision” (76%), “passion” (73%) and “drive” (64%),  followed by “integrity” (53%), “innovation” (49%) and “risk-taking” (46%). On the bottom of the top qualities cited were “relentless focus on quality” (18%) and “loyalty” (14%).

“These findings highlight that most successful entrepreneurs share a unique combination of seeing opportunity where others see only risk. And they tend to be optimistic and believe they can succeed despite the fact that everyone else is telling them they cannot,” said Maria Pinelli.

The entire report is available here.

Photo by Keith Ramsey