The term entrepreneurship is complex and difficult to define given the varied definitions that exist for it. Initially, the term referred to risk-taking activities within a business environment. Other descriptions have emerged which demonstrate both similarities and differences about the characteristics of an entrepreneur. For some observers, the entrepreneur is a person who has an unmatched ability to identify profitable opportunities, possesses the knowledge and necessary information to act as an intermediary between customers and suppliers. On the contrary, the entrepreneur is seen as an individual who innovates leading to changes within an economy. Alternatively, the entrepreneur is viewed as a risk taker who is capable of assuming calculated risks so long as the expected result leads to some profit. At another point, the entrepreneur is seen as a person who imagines opportunities as opposed to perceiving them. Overall, it is pointed out that entrepreneurs have special abilities, which make them think or act in a different way. Good entrepreneurs are capable of scaling high levels of success consistently. In assessing the profiles and attributes of successful entrepreneurs, the paper holds that motivation, control, and risk-taking are some of the most influential aspects of successful entrepreneurs.
According to Covin and Slevin, entrepreneurs can be categorised into four groups. The first category has administrators who are the people that continue to build existing businesses within a given industry. Secondly, the author focuses on the group of tacticians. The group refers to the individuals who perform spectacularly within known technologies. In the third place, there are strategists who identify sand take opportunities on the completion of profitable projects. Finally, the fourth group has idealists. This group comprises the people being those who turn dreams or ideas into enterprises or businesses.
When profiling entrepreneurs, demographic, behavioural and other characteristics become indicative of successful entrepreneurs. Assessing such factors demonstrates a wide variation among entrepreneurs. On the demographic aspect, attributes such as age, gender/sex, educational level and/or income are seen as among the most important ones. In his study, Davies emerges that there is no age limit in starting a business enterprise since individuals start businesses at any stage in their lives. Despite the revelation that people establish businesses at any age, the studies show that the most prevalent ages are between 25 and 34. It is thought that many reasons explain the result. Among the reasons is that in this age group, individuals have developed the necessary competence to manage their businesses. In many instance, such experience is gained from work or related activities. Apart from the experience gained, it is also arguable that such persons have established networks or acquired resources to set up enterprises. Through work, people create networks, earn and save incomes, or gain some access to credit facilities.
Another notable act that is connected to people at the age of 25 to 34 is that persons in the age bracket have recognised opportunities that are related to the work they do . Alternatively, such individuals may have envisioned the freedom that working as an independent entity guarantees. It is also noted that individuals who are less-established in their careers are likely to perceive other opportunities. They begin assessing existing possibilities which include engaging in business. When a person occupies a lower rank in a career position, the temptation to look elsewhere for advancement is real since the journey up the career path seems long. Another push factor at the stage in life is that individuals in the category have fewer financial obligations. In such a scenario where responsibilities are fewer, the implication is that such persons are tempted to find avenues to invest their money. In the process, the people end up venturing into entrepreneurial activities. Unlike old people, the younger population is likely not to have many obligations such as loans or bigger families to take care of. Viewed differently, the age group has less to lose compared to the older groups.
As indicated above, entrepreneurship profiling also takes the gender dimension. Relying on past statistics, it suffices to say that men are more likely to venture into enterprising activities compared to women. Despite the finding that males have the higher propensity to engage in entrepreneurial activities than females, in the early stages of life, the degree of participation in such activities vary. The variation of the levels of involvement in entrepreneurial activities in different economies points to the role of culture in the practice of entrepreneurship. In particular, it is noted that various cultures espouse different values and customs. Whereas some of the customs and values are supportive of the involvement of the two sexes in entrepreneurial ventures, others are not. Irrespectively of the setbacks associated with cultural backgrounds, it is found that women enter entrepreneurship activities for the same purposes as those of men. For instance, the need to support families, cater for their children’ education, enrich oneself, or secure one’s financial security.
Hytti and O’Gorman have indicated that societal attitudes on entrepreneurship influence the entrepreneurship process. It is observed that various cultural and social circumstances play a role in shaping people’s views about business. Positive and negative views, which societies hold about entrepreneurship, have strong influences on the decisions that individuals make concerning taking part in enterprising activities. Without a doubt, societies derive benefits from individuals capable of recognizing and opening business opportunities for exploitation. When the economy is doing well in general terms, the perception is that such a society is positive towards entrepreneurship. Such contributes through the generation of social and cultural support, business and financial assistances as well as networking benefits that encourage the emergence and advancement of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship has also been viewed as a social process. Based on the social orientation, societies with positive attitudes are likely to have individuals whose disposition to venture into business is high.
The third critical component that emerges when profiling entrepreneurs is education. Education is a factor in the emergence and development of entrepreneurship. Fundamentally, education is among the basic requirements for the successful entrepreneurship. Studies have demonstrated that higher levels of education are associated with improved chances of succeeding as entrepreneurs. The transformation of an idea to a commercial venture requires some form of competency (skills, experience, and knowledge). Such components are developed within learning institutions such as universities, grade schools, or exploring informal avenues such as the web, books, or training programs offered by various agencies. Often, both primary and secondary education spurs creativity, a personal initiative and self-sustenance. Besides, the two forms of learning provide a sufficient instruction regarding market operations. Such knowledge is significant in the running of business operations. While undergoing the learning process in the mentioned learning centres, people understand the basics of enterprise creation and running. However, colleges and universities are the ones that provide in-depth and adequate knowledge about creating and growing new enterprises.
Attributes of Entrepreneurs
One of the most important attributes of an entrepreneur is self-control. In practice, entrepreneurs do not prefer working within structured organizations where they are subject to some other persons’ authority. Many of such individuals believe that they are better off working on their own. Hence, they strive to secure optimum responsibility and accountability. Entrepreneurial minds demonstrate a willingness to create business strategies and attempt to attain their goals. Upon achieving the goals, entrepreneurs are not satisfied because they replace the goals with others. It is also noted that entrepreneurs always work towards taking charge of the future as much as feasible.
According to Bowman, it is easy to identify entrepreneurs within large structured organizations. For instance, the statements made differentiate an entrepreneurial mind from ordinary one. The reflective aspect about entrepreneurs is about the domineering role that comes out. Often, entrepreneurs have a compelling conviction that the way they handle tasks is the best way. Concisely, entrepreneurs prefer having the freedom to think, choose, and act based on their individual perceptions.
Secondly, entrepreneurs exhibit a high degree of self-confidence since they believe in their abilities. They are in charge of what they are doing. Thus, it is not surprising to find such characters handling tasks alone. Once a problem emerges, entrepreneurs tackle them immediately with a high degree of confidence. No obstacle dims the prospects of successful entrepreneurs. In practice, successful entrepreneurs come out as big winners when faced with adversity. The reason is that such people have a high degree of self-confidence.
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A sense of urgency is deemed necessary within business or organisational matters. For entrepreneurs, the sense of urgency is a major strength. Entrepreneurs recognize the significance of time. Hence, they are always eager to advance their ideas as soon as possible. When inactivity sets in, entrepreneurs become impatient, uneasy, and tense. It is highlighted that they are interested more in getting work done as opposed to hoping for luck. It is not surprising that entrepreneurs do not like group activities. On the contrary, such people want to participate in activities where they have a direct influence. Put in another way, entrepreneurs are achievement driven. They are willing to pursue their objectives tirelessly.
Successful entrepreneurs also exhibit a high level of comprehensive awareness. Such awareness is instrumental towards the understanding of complex situations. In order to overcome complexity, entrepreneurs plan or devise strategic approaches besides working on many activities concurrently. Such personalities are farsighted and re-examine possibilities often in a bid to attain their objectives. Realism has also been cited as a critical factor in entrepreneurship. Rather than find excuses, entrepreneurs accept the reality and ponder the most appropriate methods to address them. Although it cannot be claimed entrepreneurs are idealistic or not, it is alleged that they are not unrealistic. Such persons alter their approaches to the issues when they believe that the change would accelerate the attainment of their objectives. It is also noted that entrepreneurs are interested in knowing the status of an activity every time. For an item to interest an entrepreneur, it needs to be timely, besides being factual. Such personalities also tend to be trusting; hence, they are likely not to pay attention to the idea that some people could be cunning.
Conceptual ability is another necessary attribute for successful entrepreneurs. A person who thrives in business is in a position to conceptualise relationships easily and quickly within complex scenarios. In addition, entrepreneurs have an uncanny ability to identify problems and conceive workable solutions. In an event, they are told that their solutions might not work. Such people are ready to consider other viable options.
Status requirement is one of the characteristics that are indicative of the person’s disposition to succeeding as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are a category of individuals who find satisfaction or fulfilment in symbols of success which are external to them. Whereas, entrepreneurs like praise directed to the business they have set up, it becomes embarrassing when such praise targets them. Despite being successful, entrepreneurs do not shy away from seeking critical information such as data, statistics, facts, and guidance. As an example, when an entrepreneur ventures into a field where he/she has limited knowledge, seeking an expert opinion is often preferred. Entrepreneurs do not concentrate their energies working at the office. Rather, they spend most of the time where the action is taking place. For entrepreneurs, symbols associated with such an achievement as a position do not have relevance. Instead, they prefer to focus on the performance of their enterprises as opposed to what the public sees. Entrepreneurs are likely to postpone the acquisition of status assets or property until their business ventures stabilize.
Drawing upon the literature on schools of thought is also necessary in a bid to understand the entrepreneur profiles. In the current section, reference is made to the environment and individual schools of thought.
The Environmental School of Thought
The school of thought focuses on the role of environmental factors in understanding entrepreneurs and their performance. Such factors constitute either positive or negative influences for the entrepreneur. The implication is that the external force is dominant in the development of the entrepreneur. Hence, persons who end up being entrepreneurs are sometimes pushed by environmental factors. In additional environmental factors have a great bearing on the behaviour of the entrepreneur, as well as the business venture that is engaged.
Based on the above discussion, social influences from families, friends, relatives or work colleagues are assumed to play an influential role in one’s decision to enter business. Other factors include the work environment and characteristics of the markets such as regulations, levels of competition, customers, and others. It is also noted that individual influences resulting from childhood experiences, political forces, and financial capability affect people’s decisions when forming or joining businesses. The environmental school of thought also cites luck and a task difficulty as critical factors in the entrepreneurial development process.
The environmental argument emphasizes the significance of networking when seeking to succeed as an entrepreneur. It is observed that very few, if any entrepreneurs, succeed while operating as lone rangers or in the absence of well-crafted networks. It is noted that the company that prospers must be doing well on teamwork. Teams work successfully if the skills and knowledge of members are complementary. The idea that teamwork is a major success factor explains the higher likelihood of success team ventures have compared to solo enterprises.
The Individual School of Thought
The school takes a psychological perspective in assessing entrepreneurship. Thus, it mainly focuses on given personality traits that are common among high-achieving entrepreneurs. Despite the acceptance that certain characteristics are reflective of successful entrepreneurs, the wide variations in the profiling remains interesting. In the absence of consensus on what the characteristics are goal or achievement orientations, a need for power or responsibility and independence are seen as the most common attributes of successful entrepreneurs.
The psychological field of entrepreneurship can be simplified further into three subcategories (motivation, cognitive abilities, and social skills. Social skills are competencies that permit individuals to interact with other people effectively. Interaction skills influence the success that individuals achieve while operating within business set-ups. The significance of social skills is apparent given that entrepreneurs undertake many tasks which require the participation of other people. When working with other people, the social side of life is a major resource. Tasks such as generating enthusiasm or commitment among followers, raising capital, communicating effectively, selecting appropriate partners or employees, initiating and developing relationships and networks, and establishing legitimacy and trust are some of the role that social skills bring.
Among the high number of social skills, Dana sees the following as the most effective ones for entrepreneurs. Social perception which centres on the accuracy in perceiving other people with regards to their behaviours, intentions, and motives is the first skill. Secondly, impression management, which is about the ability to trigger positive reactions in others, is instrumental. Thirdly, persuasion and influence are critical techniques required in an effort to change other people’s attitudes and behaviours. Fourthly, the successful entrepreneur demonstrates emotional intelligence which is an ability to control one’s personal emotional reactions in addition to influencing others’ emotions. The final attribute is an ability to create long-term relationships. Hence, the skills to establish effective and long-term relationships are necessary for entrepreneurs. Besides the above aspects, social adaptability is seen as a major characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.
Motivation is viewed as the stimulus that stirs entrepreneurial success among individuals. The interest is among the most significant factors of motivation because it has a positive association with high performance. The overall perception is that successful entrepreneurs work out of intrinsic motivation. The implication is that they work hard because they find the task enjoyable. However, other entrepreneurs work on the extrinsic motivation which is based on the need to carry out an exercise in order to gain a reward. It is noted that the latter category of entrepreneurs fail to perform as well as the former group except for those people being highly result-oriented.
A need for achievement is another aspect when looking at individual characteristics of entrepreneurs. The need for an achievement is a psychological drive to attain economic progress. Viewed in a deeper sense, the drive is seen as the inducement that gets people into entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are more achievement driven than the ordinary people are.
The entrepreneurial concept viewed based on political economics rests on unique activities carried out by individuals within an economic a relatively stable context. It is noted that in early conceptualization of entrepreneurship, the economic gain was a primary motivation for participating in productive ventures. Besides possessing risk-bearing characteristics, the entrepreneur also has managerial nous, capable of analyzing risks, innovation, opportunity cost, and other aspects considered critical in business. Executive profile for entrepreneurs demonstrates certain levels of volition, planning, a purposive action, and effective performance. Irrespectively of whether the person can discern an opportunity or not, the ability to discharge certain executive functions is a major determinant of performance. Other related behaviours are error checking, self-monitoring, and goal orientation.
Volition relates to the complex process involved in determining the needs or wants of people. In addition, conceptualizing the future is seen as an important variable. Viewed more deeply, volition is a measure of the competence for intentional behaviour. Entrepreneurs have the capacity to formulate goals or conceptualize them towards forming an intention. For many individuals, intentions are formulated as visions or dreams. However, very few people manage to transform such dreams into the reality. The motivation and ability to initiate projects are some of the reasons for securing impressive performance among entrepreneurs. These two attributes serve as a necessary condition for volitional behaviour to prevail.
Planning is also integral to entrepreneurship, since it entails the identification or organization of steps and elements necessary to execute an intention or achieve predetermined objectives. For the one to plan effectively, conceptualization of changes based on the prevailing circumstances is critical. Planning also requires a person to be in a position to handle the environment objectively. Often planners conceive alternatives, assess them, and make choices besides embracing ideas that can contribute towards enriching the overall plan. In addition, planners have a high capacity required to sustain attention on important processes. Entrepreneurs have an unrivalled capacity in terms of flexibility and the ability to forecast the future.
Regarding a purposive action, translating the plan or intention into productive and self-serving activity which requires an entrepreneur to start, maintain, alternate, or stop sequences involving complex behaviour in an orderly as well as integrated manner. It is noted that disturbances do not occur when handling routine or simple tasks. However, where complex tasks are involved as a breakdown in the planning process is likely to be seen easily.
The General Measure of Enterprising Tendency
The General Measure of Enterprising Tendency (GET) test came into existence in 1988 following the work of Durham University Business School. Ever since, its development, the GET has attracted a widespread interest among academics from the field of entrepreneurship as well as intrapreneurship. Development consultancies and academics/ researchers from business schools have paid the unprecedented attention to the tool. The primary reason for focusing on the tool stems from its potential in informing learning and conducting a research. The high number of requests received by both research and academic institutions demonstrates the significance or popularity of the test.
The tool draws the term enterprising from entrepreneurship or what is known about entrepreneurs. Behind such leaning is an idea that the enterprising person possesses the entrepreneurial characteristics. The tool recognises the existence of different categories of entrepreneurs being differentiated based on growth orientation, business type, application of new technologies, motivation, association with management of business and other related aspects. Reviewing the tool further reveals that an enterprising person can be either an entrepreneur, or entrepreneur operating within organizations or working as voluntrapreneur by setting up and leading voluntary projects at the community level. In simple terms, an enterprising tendency is viewed as the disposition to establish and run projects.
Initially, the GET test has been advanced as a paper-driven research tool with limited interpretation regarding application for classrooms or activities entailing face-to-face assessments. Later, the Training Enterprise Companies (TEC) has adopted the tool as a knowledge-based framework used to contribute towards the training of business owners and managers. Over the last two decades, a considerable global interest in the tool has been witnessed as the test for General Enterprising Tendency gains momentum. Its applicability to education, research training and development has contributed significantly towards the enhancement of its usability and popularity worldwide.
The fundamental premise of the test rests on an idea that enterprising persons share given features or characteristics. The literature drawn from the psychological discipline perceives entrepreneurship differently in terms of how it groups characteristics deemed critical in entrepreneurship. The GET takes an approach that identifies the key characteristics common among entrepreneurial people but linked to entrepreneurial behaviour and the act of entrepreneurship. In this regard, the test has identified a strong motivation, high achievement, and autonomy needs, creativity, calculated risk-taking, and internal control. Hence, it emerges that people who have set up enterprises do so because they are motivated by some ideas. They are ready to manage risks in the pursuit of their goals.
According to Caird, the test extends an indicative but not definitive assessment of enterprising capability. However, the test can benefit from a continuous development as well as testing. Primarily, the test should be used for an educational basis to stimulate personal reflection or discussion about enterprising. Conducting the longitudinal research is important in checking for a predictive validity. The GET is a tool that allows individuals to perform a self-assessment test. Hence, the test requires persons to contemplate how they tend to either agree or disagree with given statements designed to establish how some aspects about enterprising tendencies are reflective of their behaviour. The statements test some levels of motivation, a need for achievement and autonomy, creativity, an ability to take calculated risk, and the capacity to control one’s destiny. The choice of these attributes as accurate measures of enterprising drive is contestable given the high degree of variation among the lists given by different scholars about the constituents of entrepreneurship. In psychology, the number of definitions of an entrepreneur is in itself confusing. Moreover, many characteristics of entrepreneurs further complicate entrepreneurship profiling.
The test is based on the extent to which subjects agree or disagree with a statement. Not every person likes participating in an activity where they are required to indicate their preferences about statements. In such instances, some people are forced to make choices. It must also be highlighted that the selections given by such tests are restrictive. Hence, when the participants do not fall within the choices, they are again limited to making a close selection. Despite the possibility of related setbacks, the developers of the tool have envisaged that individuals understand what they are likely to do in a given instance. Hence, they should be in a position to select the preferred choice without much ado. After taking the test, results and interpretations are generated. The results are useful in an educational and, to some extent, in real life circumstances. They inform on how to proceed if interested in pursuing enterprising ventures. Those who disagree with the outcome of the test are encouraged to seek transformation.
Based on the literature, the GET operates as categorical measurement scales. In practice, such scales have pre-determined categories assigned values like 1 to 5. Hence, respondents are expected to fall within the categories. They are limited to picking only one of them. The criticism is that some respondents may not fall within the scale. Since GET has specific categories, it also encounters the same problems. Another criticism is because the test is highly hypothetical. Hence, the extent to which it provides a clear picture or measure of entrepreneurial disposition remains unverifiable. Put differently, when the person taking the test demonstrates high tendency towards enterprising, the results are based on an imagine case. Consequently, the test does not take into consideration the actual capacity or ability of an individual to succeed as an entrepreneur. Besides, the choice of motivation, a need for achievement and autonomy, creativity, ability to take calculated risk and the capacity to be in control is not beyond question. The position is held because many other authors have compiled lists showing characteristics deemed critical in the entrepreneurship development. Despite the criticisms, the GET is a useful test in understanding entrepreneurship and the characteristics that engender enterprising behaviour.
What Makes a Good Entrepreneur?
After reviewing suggested entrepreneurial profiles, it becomes easier to understand the attributes that make a good entrepreneur although any choice is likely to elicit a debate. Drawing on the GET, motivation, a need for achievement and autonomy, creativity, an ability to take calculated risk, and the capacity to be in control are the characteristics that make a good entrepreneur. Specifically, the good entrepreneur must be highly motivated. Secondly, such a person is the one who needs autonomy and is driven to achieve great results. However, in the pursuit of success, the good entrepreneur must assess the risk he or she enters into. Creativity and being in control are also critical since the business world is overly dynamic and characterized by a high degree of competition. In the face of unpredictability of the environment, the good entrepreneur is able to take charge and steer his enterprise towards desirable performance. To digress, it is noted that motivation is one of the fundamental attributes that a successful entrepreneur possesses. Being the drive to succeed, motivation is found in the personalities of entrepreneurs. Given the challenging nature of business, successful or good entrepreneurs need to motivate themselves as well as their staff in order to push forward whenever necessary.
Noting that no individual can singlehandedly build a business empire, the role of teamwork and leadership is indispensable. The good entrepreneur needs to build a team capable of carrying out each task required in a process of pursuing the set objectives. In building teams, leadership is a critical attribute that the good entrepreneur must possess. It is very significant when an enterprise needs to face challenges and scale new heights in its field of engagement.
Apart from team building abilities, the good entrepreneur needs to have a high level of networking capacity. The enterprise cannot succeed if a manager or owner does not create networks. Networks are important in the process of seeking supplies or markets. Supply lines are integral since they feed a business with inputs while understanding the markets is critical as they influence the size of revenue that an activity generates.
Another aspect that emerges in the paper is that the background is integral to the performance of any entrepreneur. A number of attributes are considered when assessing the background. For instance, a family, friends, relatives, and larger environment, which involve state/societal structures, are also influential. The social structuring of a society can contribute either positively or negatively towards entrepreneurship.
Background influences also include work-based outcomes such as gaining additional knowledge, getting new influential friends, becoming bored about work, and having limited responsibilities play a role in individuals’ decisions to venture into business. Moreover, individual influences arising out of childhood experiences or political forces also affect people in deciding to form or join enterprising ventures. However, the luck and task difficulty also contributes to the entrepreneurial development process.
In conclusion, it is held that a number of attributes are related to entrepreneurship. Such attributes are based either on individual/ psychological or environmental/ background aspects. Thus, in categorising entrepreneurs, assessing different attributes becomes critical. Based on the research, many attributes are fronted to explain various entrepreneurial dispositions. However, motivation, control and risk-taking are deemed as some of the most influential aspects of successful entrepreneurs.