One thing should be cleared up right away: Just because you came up with a “great idea” at Arthur’s the other night doesn’t mean you’re an entrepreneur. Sure, we know you could find a market, if you “only had the time.” But you probably don’t, so let’s operate with a simple definition of entrepreneurship: They’re the guys who do it. Beyond that, we should clear up some mythology:

The entrepreneur as artist. Entrepreneurs themselves have probably done as much to spread this fiction around as anyone else. It is a tempting reduction: He works with a pencil instead of a paintbrush, and all that. But, it isn’t true for a simple reason: Degas and, for that matter, Thomas Edison were not necessarily out to make a fast buck. Whatever their urge, it wasn’t materialistic. The entrepreneur’s most decidedly is.

The entrepreneur as moneymaker. But don’t take this too literally. The entrepreneur is money-motivated, but he isn’t necessarily money-oriented. Bankers are money-oriented; money is their product. Entrepreneurs view money as a means to an end, and as a symbolic measure of success.

The entrepreneur as gambler. The entrepreneur is in the business of risk, but he is no gambler. He likes 50-50 odds at worst. He is a dreamer, but he is also a schemer. His particular talent is the ability to take a 10-to-one shot, and reduce it to an even proposition.

The entrepreneur is lucky. Of course he is. But there’s a difference between luck and blind luck. If the entrepreneur seems unusually fortunate, it is because he pushes his luck in a way most of us forget the first time a teacher slapped our hand with a ruler.

Studies reveal that the entrepreneur is a driven man, perhaps from childhood. Harvard psychologist David Mc-Clelland even theorizes that entrepreneurs uniformly have trouble adapting to the family structure as children. They learn early to go it alone. Their later enterprises, he concludes, are attempts not only to make money, but to exceed traditional practice and power in doing so.

Studies by the Caruth Institute of Owner Managed Business at SMU tend to support this: In these studies, the entrepreneur is revealed as a curious bundle of paradoxes, a man driven by an overabundant need to achieve, but with a low need for “status”; a brilliant generalist and conceptual thinker who also is a hardened realist; a commercial libertine who is a staunch conservative in his private life; a supreme salesman who can be shy or aloof with others when he’s not making a pitch.

We do know that his special angst knows no bounds of race, creed, or even socio-economic background. Some studies have suggested that entrepreneurs come primarily from lower-middle class, blue collar stock. That may have been true 10 years ago. But entrepreneurship now appears to be flourishing among the post-War generation, most of whom were raised in middle-class affluence.

One thing is clear: Entrepreneurs are not born that way: They are the product of a certain set of life experiences. So even if you didn’t mean it at Arthur’s the other night, don’t lose the faith.

The Entrepreneur Is Not a Free Spirit

A psychological profile of the entrepreneur was developed by Roger Coup of Chicago’s Social Research Inc., based on tests conducted with a number of successful entrepreneurs. The study was commissioned by Orvis Collins and David Moore, authors of The Organization Makers (Meredith, 1970), and the results were reported in that book.

The study identified “six cardinal social values’’ which seem to typify how entrepreneurs view themselves and the world:

1. The values and experiences of childhood are basically inferior to those of adulthood.

2. Children should honor their fathers and mothers -especially the latter.

3. The mind is inherently superior to the body.

4. Conspicuous display of ability for the purpose ofself-aggrandizement is wrong.

5. Infidelity is wrong.

6. Sloth is evil.

The authors concluded, “The social value system characteristic of the entrepreneur is steeped in middle-class mores, the ’American Way, the Protestant Ethic.” Whether the entrepreneur merely accepts these values or fervently believes in them, they are the foundation of his world-view.

The Entrepreneur and His Family

A study of local entrepreneurs by Dallas psychologist John Batrus offers insight into how the entrepreneur views his loved ones.

Batrus describes the typical entrepreneur in his study as having had a great deal of freedom as a child. He was “praised quite a bit, but seldom punished physically.”

Batrus believes that the entrepreneur has a strong identification with his mother. One thing the mother can do that he can’t is to create life. When entrepreneurs are shown Rorschach ink blots, they tend to see birth concepts – fetuses and embryos, for example – far more often than most people. The same pattern might be expected among artists. “It’s the same desire, but a different mode of expression,” Dr. Batrus says. “Entrepreneurs are really artists at heart. The epitome would be Stanley Marcus. He’s not really a businessman – he’s an impresario.”

The entrepreneur’s mother: “The mother of the entrepreneur is described invariably in very positive and favorable terms. She, like the entrepreneur’s wife, is seen as a highly extroverted individual, who is quite warm, loving, aggressive, assertive, and independent. Those negative comments have to do with their mothers being somewhat introverted, quiet, insecure, dependent, and somewhat moody.”

The entrepreneur’s father“The majority of comments made about the entrepreneur’s father are highly negative, certainly more so than they are positive. The prototype of the entrepreneur’s father seems to be a somewhat neurotic, controlling, dominating, and strong individual who is opinionated, unyielding and rigid, and rather critical. He is also described as very anxious, insecure, unself-confident, introverted, and selfish.”

The entrepreneur’s wife:“The wife of the entrepreneur is overwhelmingly described in a very positive, constructive, and favorable light. She is seen first and foremost as being a highly extroverted individual who is assertive and agressive. but who still has the qualities of being supportive, empathetic, compassionate, and loving. In the negative vein, she is seen as being rather introverted, somewhat neurotic, controlling and possessive.”


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