Perhaps your organization is looking for someone with the entrepreneurial spirit? You probably have an idea of what that candidate might look like. However, things are not always as they seem. A new investigation by Hiscox explores the true source of entrepreneurs, so you can better spot them when they are sitting in the candidate seat.
Business leaders are seen to be intelligent, innovative, confident, and resilient. But are these traits they have developed and refined with experience or were they simply born with the correct personalities for business?
To investigate whether entrepreneurs are born or made, business insurer Hiscox delved into the backgrounds of Forbes’ top 20 male and female billionaires, to learn more about their educational history and how they achieved their wealth. To complement their findings, they also surveyed members of the Hiscox Business Club, a group of successful small-to-medium-sized business owners based in York, for their thoughts on the matter.
Born into Business
Among the 20 billionaires on the list, 13 inherited a family business—including Bernard Arnault of LVMH, Walmart heiress Alice Walton, and L’Oréal’s Françoise Bettencourt Meyers.
Though they may have their family to thank for their fortune and careers, this doesn’t take away from the fact that they continued to successfully run a global business, and in some cases, grew the net value of the organization significantly. This alone takes a notable amount of business acumen, but what is unclear is whether this business savviness is an innate quality or one they learned on the job.
Is Education the Be All and End All?
Seventy percent of the 20 billionaires (made up of self-made entrepreneurs and heirs to a family business) have completed a university degree. At a closer glance, it turns out that all but one of the 13 heirs on the list are educated to at least undergraduate degree level. In contrast, over half of the self-made billionaires left school or a university to pursue their careers. Read into it as you may, but it could be argued that this suggests the required skills for building a successful business do not directly correlate with those traditionally taught in higher education.
All of the Hiscox Business Club members interviewed went to a university, and though they enjoyed the experience, half of them reported that they had gained no applicable knowledge that directly related to their work.
Paul Ward of Telogroup suggests that entrepreneurialism is a skill you are born with; however, external factors are also needed for you to truly benefit from it. “You can’t teach that entrepreneurial drive needed for business success,” he said, “but if a person has it within them, it can be encouraged, nurtured and coaxed out.”
While the leadership style and strengths of entrepreneurs can vary greatly, there are numerous qualities that all the greatest business leaders possess. Here are a few:
The most successful entrepreneurs have an unwavering determination to make a success of their career and to reach their business goals.
As the founder of multiple billion-dollar corporations—including Tesla and SpaceX—serial entrepreneur Elon Musk lives and breathes ambition. Never one to have his finger in just one pie, Elon Musk is always innovating and devising new projects.
While some people are born with natural ambition, seeking inspiration from success stories such as Elon Musk’s can also ingrain this quality in an individual.
A great deal of self-assurance and confidence in your own abilities is of utmost importance when running a business. Leaders firstly need this faith in themselves, before they can encourage employees to strive toward common goals and gain their trust in the future of the business.
Cathy Engelbert of Deloitte not only had herself to assure, but also the rest of the business, when she shattered the “glass ceiling” to become the company’s first female CEO. Today, she prides herself on fostering a collaborative culture where employees feel confident enough to contribute and help the business develop.
Confidence in the sense of extroversion is largely to do with the personality that you have been born with; however, self-assurance is another matter. A confidence in your ability to do something can be developed through building experience and celebrating your successes.
The ability to communicate company values and goals in an inspirational and convincing manner is incredibly valuable to any leader. Likewise, building valuable relationships with employees and important business contacts is crucial.
Known for his charismatic demeanor and laid-back leadership style, Richard Branson believes that people are the beating heart of Virgin Group. He describes communication as the “most important skill any leader can possess,” and he encourages every employee to have his or her say.
While some people are naturally outgoing and feel at ease in groups, those who would generally consider themselves an introvert can find this more challenging. One way to work on your social confidence is to attend networking events and reach out to as many new people as possible. In time, you’ll find it gets much easier to start conversations, and you’ll build a strong network of contacts along the way.
Looking at the backgrounds of the Forbes billionaires in conjunction with the Hiscox Business Club reveals that business aptitude isn’t a simple case of nature or nurture but rather a combination of the two. While a large percentage of the business leaders have a university education, there’s no real evidence to prove that this assisted them on their road to entrepreneurialism. In fact, university dropouts such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates indicate that life experience and soft skills may be of far more value.
Love the topic? Have a look at the full campaign on the Hiscox blog.
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