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Are entrepreneurs born or made?
published: Sunday | February 12, 2006

Hopeton Morrison, Contributor

PERHAPS THE most desirable but equally intimidating means of achieving life-long financial independence is entrepreneurship. And one of the most enduring questions within the entrepreneurial discipline is whether entrepreneurs are born or made.

It is a fact that many successful entrepreneurs had parents who were themselves entrepreneurs. And we hardly need to look very far in Jamaica as the Chinese and immigrant Indian communities have very visibly validated that theory.

Of equal interest also, is a study published in 1995 by Erik Winslow and George Solomon in the Journal of Creative Behaviour. The study profiles the differences between successful entrepreneurs and typical managers. The findings are interesting.

The psychological profile of the successful entrepreneur is similar in significant ways, to that of insane sociopaths who commit crimes without a trace of remorse. The researchers describe successful entrepreneurs as mildly sociopathic, spontaneous, charming, opportunistic, and ambivalent in forming close personal relationships. They tend to be uncomfortable with the conventions of the status quo, with rules, and even with the expectations of others for them.


Thomas Zimmerer and Norman Scarborough examined this theory by Winslow and Solomon in their book Essentials of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management and came up with four important differences between the conventional manager and the successful entrepreneur.

1. The conventional manager was very conscious of rules and taboos whereas the entrepreneur accepted rules as mere guidelines.

2. The conventional manager was sensitive to the future and would postpone rewards whereas the successful entrepreneur carried a low threshold of frustration and in that respect tended to conceptualise his or her future based on personal fantasy. In our own interactions with a number of successful entrepreneurs right here we are told that 'credible fantasising' or daydreaming is a vital characteristic.

3. While the conventional manager had an overpowering need for acceptance, the entrepreneur often showed the trait to be manipulative and even exploitative of others. He was often ambivalent towards success and responsibility.

4. The manager was organised, able to identify problems at all stages of the decision-making process and made detailed plans. On the other hand, the entrepreneur was impatient with this, often eschewing discussions and theories while being highly action-oriented and often accused of being impulsive and prone to 'seat-of-the-pants' decisions.


So then, if you would be an entrepreneur, is there a relatively seamless way to find out? Hardly, but here are three tried and tested steps that you can take to assist the process:

1. If you are currently employed as a manager and find yourself displaying traits more associated with the successful entrepreneur, then you have two choices. Either find an employer who seeks that type of profile (and many modern corporations including a few here in Jamaica do seek 'entrepreneurial managers'), or start your entrepreneurship journey.

2. Many successful entrepreneurs started their journey on a part-time basis. You are giving yourself the best of both worlds. Essentially, you seek to ease into business for yourself without sacrificing the 'relative security' of a steady salary. We qualify security as relative here because the successful entrepreneur often reminds employed persons that their security in a 'good job' is a quite tenuous one as they are not themselves in control of their financial security and may be separated from their employment on a whim.

3. As you contemplate an entrepreneurial future remember that one of the major advantages of venturing out part time is that you close the risk gap in the event of the venture failing. At the same time, you are able to assess whether this is something that you will enjoy doing for the rest of your working life.

Hopeton Morrison is general manager of St. Thomas Cooperative Credit Union Ltd. and lecturer in the School of Business Administration at the University of Technology. Please send comments and questions to:

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