08 Apr Am I Cut Out to be an Entrepreneur?
I originally wrote this post for my Innovation Strategy course this quarter. My task was to evaluate whether my personal traits are conductive to being an entrepreneur. This was a very important assignment for me because I am intent upon building my own business and this introspection is critical for understanding my strengths and challenges. I would welcome any feedback on how optimize my chances of success in this realm. Thank you.
I have spent much of the last 20 years working as an employee in a corporate environment. For most of that time, I would have considered myself to be risk-averse. However, I started to re-assess my preferences about three years ago. I identified my desire to work for myself and start my own venture. In early 2017, I quit my job at Ernst & Young and returned to school to pursue my Masters in sport psychology in hopes of building a mental performance coaching practice. It was a large and anxiety-inducing step for someone who has largely craved the security of a full-time paycheck. I learned that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I did not critically evaluate whether I was actually cut out for being an entrepreneur or not.
At the suggestion of Professor Arnold, I completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment. I had taken the MBTI before, but honestly can’t remember my type from that initial assessment. My personality is ISFJ, or Introvert, Sensing, Feeling, Judging. Ironically enough, the ideal personality type for an entrepreneur is ENTP or Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving, according to MBTI (Smith, 2010). This is exactly the opposite of my personality type. So, I guess this means that I am not cut out to be an entrepreneur? Frankly, I don’t believe this is the case.
Anecdotally, I have undergone significant changes in my life over the past six years or so that have led to greater emotional stability, greater confidence in my abilities, and a significant shift in my personal philosophies. With these changes, I have developed a clear intention to pursue entrepreneurship. One study found that “internal locus of control, need for achievement, risk tolerance, and entrepreneurial alertness are dimensions of personality traits which lead a person to develop entrepreneurial intention” (Karabulut, 20106, p. 12). Most critically, my internal locus of control has significantly increased over the past six years. I went from considering myself a victim of circumstance and worrying about what others think of me, including my wife, family, and friends, to someone who believes that I control my own destiny through my actions. I have a developed a clear mission of being of service to others. I am comfortable taking emotional and financial risks because I believe in myself and don’t concern myself with what others think of me. My entrepreneurial intention is steeped in an increased internal locus of control.
Further, my risk tolerance has increased significantly over the past six years. My tolerance for financial risk has increased moderately as demonstrated by quitting my well-paying consulting job to take on part-time work and return to school in service of my new goals. However, my willingness to assume emotional risk has increased exponentially. I believe in myself and my mission. I am willing to risk failure to establish the life that I want to create. This is a very significant shift for me. I was raised to be risk-averse. I was raised to believe that I needed to earn a steady paycheck and make sure the bills are paid. I was raised to believe that work is an obligation and not a calling. So, this is exactly how I behaved. However, it wasn’t until I experienced real adversity in my life and was forced to confront very serious personal issues that my mindset began to shift. I survived a very difficult time and through that experience realized that I could handle failure. So why wouldn’t I take a shot at doing what I wanted to do?
Right now, I don’t have intentions of scaling a start-up from nothing to flipping a multi-million dollar enterprise. I am more focused on building a brand, doing meaningful work on my terms, generating sufficient cash flow to live comfortably, and perhaps have the opportunity to pursue a variety of interests. Most importantly, I want to call my own shots. Succinctly, I would consider myself a small business entrepreneur. I am not pursuing entrepreneurship strictly to get rich or because I inherently get a rush from risk-taking. Rather, I am clearly committed to a vision for my business and I crave the freedom to do exactly what I want to do without being told what to do by someone else (Kreuger, 1998). Krueger also found that individuals with high self-esteem are “more active individuals, more satisfied with their jobs, and more likely to select unconventional jobs” (Krueger, 1998, p. 27). I have worked extremely hard on myself over the past six years. I consider my self-esteem to be high today. This is allowing me to take risks and have confidence in my decision-making. Regardless of what MBTI says or what the research tells us, I believe high self-esteem is the number one attribute of an entrepreneur because I need to be able to look myself in the mirror and know I am still a good person if things don’t go my way in business.
Am I cut out to be an entrepreneur? I am not sure. MBTI would probably say no. A small sample of research says maybe. I say yes. The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. The one thing that I can say with great confidence is that I don’t think an individual’s personality is static. I think personalities change as we learn through experience. I have witnessed myself going through a very significant transition. Am I an ISFJ personality at heart? Perhaps. Do I think that can change? Absolutely. Do I think my personality matters much if I have the necessary awareness and I am willing to do the work to become a successful entrepreneur? Not really.
Karabulut, A.T. (2016). Personality traits on entrepreneurial intention. 5th International Conference on Leadership, Technology, Innovation, and Business Management, 229, 12-21.
Kreuger, D. (1998). Personality characteristics of the small business entrepreneur. Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship, 10(1), 26-33.
Smith, K. (2010 November 30). If Your Myers-Briggs personality style is ENTP, then you’re probably an entrepreneur. Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/myer-briggs-personality-styles-and-entrepreneurship-2010-11