Psycho or just plain brilliant?
Behind every great brand is someone who had the drive and smarts to kick start it. Some brands are born out of the boardrooms of large corporations, but many are the result of the inspiration of entrepreneurs. Individuals who had a dream big enough to push them to overcome the odds, to create something of true value and esteem. Professor Howard Stevenson from Harvard University states, “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” It is about self-belief and determination. Alternatively some may describe an entrepreneur as a person crazy enough to be ok with working twice as hard as anyone else and with the prospect of never getting paid. Certainly entrepreneurs swim in uncertainty every day, especially as a start-up.
The Financial Review had an article in August suggesting that Charles Manson and Richard Branson may have more in common than rhyming surnames and big hair. It was based on new research from the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales which suggested that people with psychopathic tendencies can also make for good entrepreneurs. The article quoted PhD student Benjamin Walker who said ‘Psychopaths commit an offence, go to prison, then come out and commit the offence again, because they fail to learn from the prison experience”. Psychopaths like serial killer Charles Manson are born with temperamental differences that lead them to being risk seekers, impulsive and fearless.
These personality traits also allow a person to persist in risk-taking and succeed in business, the study found. Walker said it was no surprise that some entrepreneurs such as Virgin founder Richard Branson do adventure sports in their spare time — they have a certain degree of fearlessness.
Regardless of the level of fearlessness or risk taking appetite that an entrepreneur may have, the one attribute that must be present is the ability to understand and see opportunities. They need to be able to identify problems that, if solved, would be valued by a sizeable cohort of the market. Entrepreneurs are for the most part intellectually active, they see problems all around that need fixing, and are generally impatient about those problems. But it is not enough to just see the problems. An entrepreneur must also have a burning ambition to fix them and the self-confidence to believe they are uniquely positioned to bring about change. Not everyone has that ambition and self-confidence, hence the reason why so many prefer to work for someone else.
Entrepreneurship has the potential to be a very empowering endeavor. It is the very reason as to why on this particular Tuesday I am not at my desk in South Melbourne but volunteering in Kathmandu to run a number of entrepreneur workshops for young Nepalese. It is an exciting initiative and something I will report back on. Here’s to the next generation of problem solving entrepreneurs!