What makes entrepreneurs successful? Is it inborn talent or hard work and determination? Are entrepreneurs born to win? If you don’t have the entrepreneurial DNA imprinted in your genes, are you doomed to fail?
As an avid figure skating fan, these questions remind me of the rivalry between Olympic figure skating gold winner medal Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir prior to the 2010 Olympics. In a New York Times article, the world-famous coach Frank Carroll was interviewed on Lysacek’s chances of winning the Olympics:
“I looked at Johnny and said, ‘My God, this is the most talented man I’ve ever seen’ … Then I looked at Evan and said, ‘My God, this is the most determined man I’ve ever seen.’ I looked at the two of them and thought, who will be the best? Will the one with the natural ease and talent win? Will it beat the one with determination, intensity and work ethic?’”
Like skating, a person naturally talented in business has distinct advantages. In fact, a Gallup poll of 2,500 U.S. entrepreneurs found that having higher levels of “entrepreneurial talent” increases the chance for business success. Entrepreneurial talent “… seem to make some people better at noticing new business opportunities and more likely to be risk-takers, natural salespeople and adept at cultivating social networks — all traits that support entrepreneurial success.”
The Gallup study found that innately talented entrepreneurs are:
- three times more likely to build large businesses and to grow them significantly
- four times more likely to create jobs
- four times more likely to exceed profit goals
- five times more likely to exceed sales goals
But as the 2010 Olympics showed, the determined Lysachek won gold over the naturally talented Weir. Lysachek’s hard work, persistence and determination helped him win the Olympic gold. As Lysacek admits:
When I first started skating I had no talent at all. I had no feel for the ice. It takes your body a while to adjust. I wasn’t like a natural, which you hear a lot of skaters say. It was something that I learned.
More important than talent or anything is your heart. You’re either born with the heart of an athlete or not, because in sports you go through so much adversity. You want to quit. In any sport — in soccer or baseball — you have a bad day and you want to quit. But the most important thing is to be persistent.
Natural business talents can definitely help you succeed. But even if you don’t have the innate entrepreneurial gift, you can compensate for it with rigorous practice, hard work, self-motivation and support from others, as Lysacek has shown. In addition, you need to work hard to learn the things that don’t come naturally to you. You need to adopt compensating strategies that will plug your weaknesses. You will need to work harder and smarter than someone who has the natural talent for entrepreneurship.
Start by deep personal introspection to help you point out your strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur. Avail of training and education to help you improve the entrepreneurial traits that do not come naturally to you. There are a number of ways you can become a better entrepreneur and increase your business acumen such as:
- Find mentors who can help you and teach you about business. Mentors can be people in your daily life, or those you’ve networked with online and offline. It will not be easy, as strangers you’ve chatted with a few times online and off may not be willing to share with you their expertise and mentor you. They need to see your potential, talents or your passion and believe that you have it in you to succeed. Be patient, and make time to continue developing relationships with people you want to mentor you.
- Plan a party or big event, to help teach you about organization skills, finding and negotiating with vendors and keeping everything on schedule and budget. It doesn’t have to be at the level of a party planner (unless you are planning on becoming one), but dealing with logistics and seeing something from start to finish can give you lessons you need. It’s an unconventional way to learn but helps develop the skills that entrepreneurs need to succeed.
- Read books on business and entrepreneurship, such as howtos and stories of successful entrepreneurs. Biographies and autobiographies of successful entrepreneurs can give you important insights on their philosophies, insights and how their mind works. For books to read, check out our Small Business Bookstore
- Become a volunteer to help you network and acquire skills that you may not possess. One organization that you may want to be actively involved Is your local chamber of commerce. (Read the article How to Get the Most of Your Local Chamber of Commerce Membership).
- Practice how to become a better communicator by watching your body language, removing unnecessary fillers in your conversation, or even finding places where you can practice such as Toastmasters Club or improve classes. (Read the article How to be an Effective Communicator)