Finding The Right Business

What's Your Entrepreneurial Personality Type?

Anyone can start a business! The secret is picking a venture that fits your entrepreneurial personality. Here's how to determine yours.

Does personality matter in becoming a successful entrepreneur? Recent studies say yes, successful entrepreneurs share a number of common personality traits, and these traits are the predominant indicators of their success-outweighing education, family ties, skills and experience. Moreover, people who choose business ventures that are in sync with their true personalities tend to experience the greatest level of success and fulfillment.

Every personality type--and therefore, every person--has the potential to grow a successful business. You just need to determine the right opportunity. Self-awareness guides us in understanding what's needed to bridge the gap between who we are and what the opportunity requires.

Our research shows that most entrepreneurs who reach their goals are often natural leaders and strong problem-solvers, and they work well under pressure. For those who don't have this type of personality--which is most of the population--it is critical to understand the requirements for being a successful entrepreneur. Only then will you be prepared to create the right team for the endeavor. The key to success is selection: You must select an opportunity that suits your personality, then hire or select the right people to surround yourself with.

My soon-to-be-released book, The Entrepreneur Next Door, shows you how to determine your personality and, more important, how you can adopt those behaviors that entrepreneurship requires to maximize your opportunity for success.

Two Faces
Over the past eight years, the employees of my Westlake Village, California-based behavioral consultancy, Accord Management Systems Inc., and I have interviewed and studied more than 1,500 entrepreneurs whose companies have sales of more than $1 million a year. We surveyed their personalities, emotional intelligence and brain dominance, and we chronicled their responses to more than 100 questions in an online survey. Because of this work, we now know why some entrepreneurs become multimillionaires, others do moderately well, some barely survive, and many don't make it. More important, we understand how to predict the things that entrepreneurs can do, based on their personalities, to improve their odds of success.

In our research, we determined that people basically come in two flavors: Generalists and Specialists. Generalists and Specialists are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Generalists are strategic thinkers. They are big picture-oriented, prefer environments where they can use their results-driven nature, enjoy autonomy and independence, and are stronger risk-takers. Specialists are tactically oriented, prefer being responsible for areas within their areas of expertise, are more detail-oriented, and prefer environments that provide both security and stability. Specialists are typically more risk-averse, unless they are working within their area of expertise.

We also examined four personality factors: dominance, sociability, relaxation and compliance. We all exhibit some degree of these factors, whose opposites are acceptance, analytical, drive and independence, respectively.

Generalist personalities will have a dominance factor that is much greater than their compliance factor. This is the source of their need to win and their belief that they are always right. They are therefore self-confident and able to assume risk. The Specialist personality has a compliance factor that is much greater than the dominance factor. Therefore, doing things by the book-following rules, policies and procedures--is more important to them. They will try to do everything right, which means avoiding risks.

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This article was originally published in the April 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: What's Your Type?.

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