There's a mysterious "X factor" shared by entrepreneurs around the world. Fledgling entrepreneurs reach for it, while the successful seem to wear it effortlessly. But what is this elusive entrepreneurial element? Is it a learned skill, or is it genetic? Can entrepreneurship be taught, or is it something that's just in your blood?
The truth is that while many skills shared by great entrepreneurs can be learned, two elements are traits that entrepreneurs are born with.
The traits entrepreneurs possess
In my experience, the entrepreneurial "X factor" comes down to a dichotomy of two innate traits. The first being creativity, which is the ability to discover and develop viable new business ideas. The second is intuition, or the gift of knowing who will benefit from a new idea and how to sell them the idea.
These two elements work in tandem: They lend the uncanny ability to see around corners and create true vision. If you don't have these two elements, you will most likely not succeed as an entrepreneur. That doesn't mean you can't run a successful business, but it will not be a truly entrepreneurial venture.
And even if you did win the genetic lottery, for this powerful duo to be used to their full potential, they must be harnessed with four other learned skills.
1. People skills. Understanding how to build and inspire a team could be an entire concentration of study within academia. The art of getting people to do what you want them to do requires a lot of practice and many failed attempts before getting it right.
2. Ability to focus resources. Often, entrepreneurial ventures suffer from organizational ADD. Symptoms include the inability to focus on critical details necessary for project completion and the pursuit of rabbit trails. A successful entrepreneur must learn the logic behind building a business and realize when they're over-innovating to the point of wasting resources.
3. Financial skills. Some entrepreneurs operate with such an intuitive sense of direction that their organization grows from the sheer inertia of powerful ideas. But at some point, somebody needs to know how to balance the books for operational sustainability.
4. Orchestration capabilities: Coordinating all of a business's moving parts is the essence of management, a skill taught in universities across the country.
These four skills are garnered through hard work, practice and persistence. They are just as crucial to an entrepreneur's success as the "X factor," and they can be learned over time.
Packing the Essentials
The essential genetic traits of an entrepreneur -- creativity and intuition -- are what separate the truly entrepreneurial from the average business owner. These traits make for a mind full of big ideas combined with an understanding of the people who can benefit from those big ideas. This is the foundation of any great business.
Nevertheless, an organization cannot survive on DNA alone. It must be complemented by skills that are learned and cultivated over time. In the end, the "X factor" is not an end-all, be-all trait that gives entrepreneurs a golden ticket to success. Without hard work, business savvy and the ability to manage people, even the most creative and intuitive will fail.