It seems that everyone is promoting being entrepreneurial these days. At SXSW, Bill Gates called for more entrepreneurs to enter the education space. Senators Moran and Warner say Washington, D.C., needs more entrepreneurs. Consulting firms Ernst & Young and PwC have employees pitch a new idea, and the winners get funded. Even well-known start-ups such as Google and Dell are taking a page from universities, and creating Entrepreneur-in-Residence programs to encourage more entrepreneurial knowledge and awareness in their companies.
So what is it that makes some people more entrepreneurial? The popular answers are they are risk takers, charismatic leaders who don’t fear failure and are highly motivated to succeed. I can’t argue with any of those; we can all name successful entrepreneurs who embody those characteristics. But can I create or increase those qualities in myself, or in the people around me? Unfortunately, I don’t think I can teach people to be bigger risk takers, to not fear failure or to be more charismatic.
However, in an interview with Forbes, Monica Mehta (author of The Entrepreneurial Instinct) cites what I think are three more attainable traits of successful entrepreneurs. The first is persistence; I looked up the definition, which is “to be obstinately repetitious, insistent or tenacious, holding firmly and steadfastly to a purpose, state or undertaking despite obstacles, warning, or setbacks.” Wow. Too often, I give up after a few attempts to do something. The second trait is to be optimistic. Rather than looking for the positives, it is easy to fall back to the negative – that it will never work, or it will get worse. And her last trait was resourcefulness. Again, too often I say “I don’t have the budget, the time or the people to do that” when I should find the resources I need to do something if it is important.
The cynics will call these traits being stubborn or unrealistic, but if we want to be more entrepreneurial we may need a new pattern of thinking and action. And maybe that’s the key to the personal and organizational change business leaders are seeking when they are talking about being more entrepreneurial.