From good to great: The construct of an entrepreneur
Updated: Nov 6
Deconstructing an entrepreneur is like trying to unlock the Caramilk® secret or discover the Coke® recipe, uh-hum - a well kept trade secret, right? Before getting into which characteristics make for a great entrepreneur, let's start off with the foundation - the basic definitions - of what an entrepreneur is, as well as what entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship are:
The foundation; general definitions
An “entrepreneur” is “an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards.” (see also this article, outlining the differences between entrepreneurs and small-business owners);
“Entrepreneurship”, a term which has spurred some debate as to its definition, can be generally defined as: (i) a process of going on “...an original path to create a new business” (Stanford), (ii) “the activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit” (Oxford Dictionary), amongst other definitions;
“Intrapreneurship” refers to “...a system that allows an employee to act like an entrepreneur within a company or other organization. Intrapreneurs are self-motivated, proactive, and action-oriented people who take the initiative to pursue an innovative product or service. An intrapreneur knows failure does not have a personal cost as it does for an entrepreneur since the organization absorbs losses that arise from failure.”
Construct of a an entrepreneur; interview with some entrepreneurs
Confessions be told, not everyone can be an entrepreneur. Some think it's too stressful, too risky. Others prefer a “normal“ routine and stability, if that exists in today’s world. However, for those who want to become an entrepreneur, here’s what some entrepreneurs responded to the question “What makes for a great entrepreneur?”
Nicholas Niro of the clothing and shoe wear company La Canadienne mentions that “...success in entrepreneurship doesn't come from having the best idea, but from having the determination to bring any idea to life.”
Alexi Lemay of Lemay Michaud responds “...resilience, adaptability, and a hunger for knowledge are the hallmarks of a successful entrepreneur.”
Patrick Wellington, President of Matériaux Spécialisés Louiseville (MSL) explains that an entrepreneur is “...someone who commits to persevering through adversities and “failures”, that can adapt to changing environments and that can attract the right team to execute a strong game plan over time. Harnessing your ego is also a big plus ”. He also adds that “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
Richard Cote of Hitek Logistics states that "successful entrepreneurs excel in the art of communication, thrive on resilience in the face of adversity, and embrace adaptability as a guiding principle on their journey to greatness”; and finally
MVIP™ co-founder Chistopher Thierry, after reflecting on his 20+ year entrepreneurial experience and exit, responds: “...one word “grit” and the ability to grind it out.” He adds that “success is rarely a rocket ship and entrepreneurs need to handle the ups and downs and keep it moving forward”, and to "never lose sight of IP; as it can make up over 50% of the exit contract".
What does the research add?
Entrepreneurs must be coachable and be able to be mentored (Kuratko et als., 2021);
Entrepreneurs display several of the 10 following characteristics: (1) curiosity, (2) willingness to experiment, (3) adaptability, (4) decisiveness, (5) self-awareness, (6) risk tolerance, (7) comfort with failure, (8) persistence, (9) innovative thinking, and (10) long-term focus (Harvard Business School);
According to the Business Development Bank of Canada’s 2023 report titled “Entrepreneurship in Motion: Skills to Succeed in a Changing World”, in which 1250 entrepreneurs were surveyed, it found that the four (4) groups of skills that were considered to be critical to entrepreneurial success are: “grit and relationship skills, leadership and people skills, marketing and finance skills, and operational administration skills”;
According to a Spanish study of over 1000 students, key personality items linked with entrepreneurship are knowledge of the business, initiative and open-minded person. The authors of this study also noted that: (i) education and training in business is a key aspect of entrepreneurship, (ii) family environment positively influences entrepreneurship, and (iii) creativity, initiative, risk taking and efficiency management are important to become an entrepreneur (Rosado-Cuberdo et als., 2022);
Entrepreneurs have a continuous “drive to solve problems” (Littunien, H., 2000); and
According to a recent Endeavor study, titled “Where do Unicorns come from?” (September 2023), the authors found that successful founders had: (a) a field of study, (i.e., a specialized degree such as engineering), (ii) several years of work experience (i.e., 10+ years), and (iii) already worked at an enterprise or founded one. The following diagram outlines the career journeys of the top $1+ billion founders:
Taking intellectual property (IP) into account
In addition to the above personality traits, entrepreneurs must also be versed in the ways of IP, as it is essential for them to safeguard their investment in the new product and/or service. Some important IP considerations, include:
Having an IP strategy – Your business's IP is an important asset that you will want to protect. Have a plan for how you will use IP to reach your business goals. Creating this IP strategy helps you make sense of how best to manage your IP. It should always be aligned with your business goals.
Responsibility for enforcement – Remember that it is up to you to monitor for infringement and enforce IP rights. Keep in mind that you must separately register your IP in each country that you wish to protect it in.
Commercialize your IP – Start by identifying (or boxing) your IP and protecting your idea. It is crucial to keep in mind your IP strategy and to determine which commercialization models are most effective for your specific IP.
Partnering with other companies – Protecting your IP is critical as you enter a partnership or joint venture with other companies. While partnering can help to reduce costs and risks by sharing resources such as industry expertise, capital and IP, it is important to find the right company or companies to partner with and have a clear understanding of the roles that each of you will play, and how you will use and own existing or new IP.
Familiarize yourself with the costs of maintaining your IP – Managing your IP also means managing the cost of IP. Plan for your IP administrative fees, any professional fees and make sure to include any IP outside of your country. Taking the initiative to understand these expenses can help you streamline your business strategy from a financial perspective.
In closing and to borrow a post from “Mr. Wonderful”, Mr. Kevin O’Leary “...every entrepreneur and CEO should be able explain their big idea and vision in 90 seconds or less. If not, you will fail".
Need more information, contact us.
Other references worth checking out:
Chapter contributor Fernando Gómez-Baquero Ph.D., Director of Runway and Spinouts at Cornell Tech, spoke to entrepreneurs coming from universities with Raffaele Trapasso, senior economist at the OECD, at the EECOLE roundtable. Check out the video recording (here) and his book chapter here
More information can be found in Durand, D., et al. (2023). What’s the Big Idea? The Crossroads Between Investment and IP. In: Bader, M.A., Süzeroğlu-Melchiors, S. (eds) IP management for startups. Management for Professionals. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-16993-9_8
“Closing the IP and Innovation Gender Gap in Canada”, which was published in WIPO Magazine in celebration of World Intellectual Property Day 2023 and its campaign theme, Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity. In this article, MVIP co-founder David Durand interviewed two Canadian trailblazing entrepreneurs, Dr. Sarah Kimmins and Dr. Nancy Mayo who spoke about their entrepreneurial experiences.
Frank Stronach: Thank red tape for making Canadian entrepreneurs a dying breed (National Post article, October 31, 2023)
McCarthy, P.X., Gong, X., Braesemann, F. et al. The impact of founder personalities on startup success. Sci Rep13, 17200 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-41980-y
Kerr et als., Personality Traits of Entrepreneurs: A Review of Recent Literature, Harvard Business School, Working Paper 18-047, available at: https://www.hbs.edu/ris/Publication%20Files/18-047_b0074a64-5428-479b-8c83-16f2a0e97eb6.pdf
Salmony, F.U., Kanbach, D.K. Personality trait differences across types of entrepreneurs: a systematic literature review. Rev Manag Sci 16, 713–749 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11846-021-00466-9, available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11846-021-00466-9
Şükrü Gedik, Mehmet Miman, Mehmet Serdar Kesici, Characteristics and Attitudes of Entrepreneurs Towards Entrepreneurship, Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 195, 2015, Pages 1087-1096, ISSN 1877-0428, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.06.153, available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042815036320
Nadkami, Shirish, Are You Cut Out to Be an Entrepreneur?, Harvard Business Review, (September 02, 2021)
OECD SME and Entrepreneurship strategy, see: OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy - OECD
Erkko Autio, Martin Kenney, Philippe Mustar, Don Siegel, Mike Wright, Entrepreneurial innovation: The importance of context, Research Policy, Volume 43, Issue 7, 2014, Pages 1097-1108, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2014.01.015, available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048733314000717
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Sylvain Catherine, Keeping options open: What motivates entrepreneurs?, Journal of Financial Economics, Volume 144, Issue 1, 2022, Pages 1-21, ISSN 0304-405X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfineco.2022.01.001, available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304405X22000010
Felipe Hernández-Perlines, et als., Intrapreneurship research: A comprehensive literature review, Journal of Business Research, Volume 153, 2022, Pages 428-444, ISSN 0148-2963, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2022.08.015, available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0148296322006981