But firsts things first, what does the term entrepreneur means. This appellation is not recent, the first definition of it was released in the eighteenth century thanks to the work of a French economist Richard Cantillon. Indeed, he has received recognition as the pioneer of the notion of entrepreneurship (Murphy, 2006) he identified that an entrepreneur is someone who take decision and aware of the risks an enterprise generates. In the twentieth century (A., 1965), Schumpeter described an entrepreneur as an innovator. More recently, according to Onuoha (G., 2007), entrepreneurship is respond to an analyzed opportunity by starting a new business.
For many economists or specialists in the field of entrepreneurship, being an entrepreneur is not something we can learn but something inborn. According to Frakes et al., individuals DNA and personality are important actors in whether the people can or cannot become a successful entrepreneur. In other words, Frakes explicitly states the individuals are born entrepreneurs or not, it is not something which can be taught. As said previously, everything is in the genes of the individuals, in their personalities. What traits of personality leads to the success as an entrepreneur ? According to the works of many different authors and economists like Frederick et. al. (2007), Sexton and Bawman (1984) or Bolton and Thompson (2000), some traits of personality are more likely to be the keys of what makes a successful entrepreneur:
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Need for Achievement
Need for Autonomy
Locus of Control
The Need for Achievement plays an important role in the traits of personality that an entrepreneur need. Thanks to the work of Stewart (1998), it has been reported that the will of achievement of an entrepreneurs was higher than both corporate manager and small-business owners-managers. According to the theory of McClelland (1961), this need makes the individual to struggle for the success. It is easy to link this trait of personality with the notion of ambition, which is defined by dictionaries as a strong desire to achieve something. It is easier for a person to succeed in problem-solving and decision-making process when having a strong need for achievement (Littunen, 2000; Utsch and Rauch, 2000)
Many researchers suggested that feelings and activeness of personality are motive forces for all human creations. The positive motions affect the variables called feelings and emotions which is a link between them and they are analysed in different environments. The positive outlook indicates the positive feeling which promotes creativity.
Just like the need for achievement, Need for Autonomy always had a close relationship to the entrepreneurial motivation. It has been characterized as the aspiration of being independent and self-directing (Harrell & Alpert, 1979; McClelland, 1975). The Need for Autonomy has also been described as a predictor of the successful "fit" of an individual with an entrepreneurial position (Harrell & Alpert, 1979, p. 264).
The Locus of Control is also a really important character in the traits of personality a person should have to be a successful entrepreneur. It is related on how he or she can handle the events in life (Leone and Burns, 2000). The Locus of Control is an emotion dimension which relies on the idea of control. There are two distinct sorts of it, the external and internal locus of control. A person with an external locus of control will be able to think and believe beyond the circumstances like fate, while individuals with an internal locus of control will more likely believe in personal control events and effects in lives (Koh, 1996; Riipinen, 1994; Hansemark, 1998)
The Risk-Taking propensity is a vital factor for a successful entrepreneur. Having an entrepreneurial position within an organisation require not being afraid of decision-making and risk-taking processes. It is reasonable to expect in any profile of what make an entrepreneur to have risk-taking propensity. According to Chantillon (1755) the main difference between an entrepreneur and an employee was the risk involved in the work they are doing. Another difference is, at the opposite of a regular employee or even a manager, an entrepreneur personally takes all the risks (Erdem, 2001; Brockhaus, 1980; Littunen, 2000).
Even though this "born-made" debate have been argued for decades, some intellectual like Hollander in 1971, affirm that a part of our personality is inborn and permanent. Other psychological like Hans Eysenck (1965), suggests that 75% of an individual personality is based on genetic influence, and thus, only 25% based on external influence.
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It is broadly said that some traits of personality are vital to become a successful entrepreneur. In general, psychologists believe that, even if a person is not born with these innate characteristics, come others which can be learn and influence the latter, and that is what we will discuss in the next part.
The other side of the debate, the believers that entrepreneurship is something which can be taught and learnt, has many arguments as well. In fact, the majority respondents in a survey conducted by Hood and Young in 1993 of chiefs executives from entrepreneurial firms believed that "while personality traits are difficult to influence, the vast majority of knowledge required by entrepreneurs can be taught". Moreover, we can easily observe the growing amount of people interested in that field and who choose to study this particular area during their studies by the quantity of books covering the subject by a quick research on a website like Amazon. With the key word "entrepreneurship", the website generates almost 30,000 results.
But the question here is the following: if being an entrepreneur can be taught, what are the notions and knowledge that needs to be learnt ?
According to Schumpeter's vision of entrepreneurship, three aspects are identified as vital to be taught to a future entrepreneur: opportunity recognition, resource acquisition and innovation. However, from Schultz's interpretation of it, it is necessary to add a fourth aspect: the management of existing resources.
The latter, managing existing resources is not only business skills-based, but a mix with other leadership and decision making knowledge. Every student in any business school over the world will have to learn these notions. This compose the base of most undergraduate business programs.
Again, the resource acquisition constitute many undergraduate entrepreneurship courses. For instance, here in the University of Exeter, some of our lectures in the module "Could You be an Entrepreneur?" focus on the acquisition of resources: writing business plans, acquiring venture, marketing new products, etc. We learn these skills through basic notions coming from analysis, case studies or even project like the business plan we have to prepare.
The opportunity recognition is definitely the backbone of the skills which demands to be learnt by young entrepreneurs. Although, something extremely important according to Alvarez and Barney (2005), is that it does not only involve the identification of actual opportunities, but also the creation of new ones. Usually, this notion is taught via creative-thinking activities.
Finally, the concept of innovation. This one is obviously the most contested, is it really possible to teach someone how to be innovative. Mises said: "What distinguishes the successful entrepreneur [...] is the fact that he does not let himself be guided by what was and is [...]. He sees the past and the present as other people do; but he judges the future in a different way" (Mises, 1949, p. 585). The message here is that a successful entrepreneur needs to be aware of what surrounds the company and thus, is always one step forward from his competitors. In other words, the notion of innovation cannot be learnt, but the idea of consistently being alert of the environment can be assimilated.
In addition to these four aspects or notions which can be taught through his academic life, the individual can also learn some other variables. For example, a person is more likely to start a new business in the area he used to work as an employee because he know for facts how the field works and the ways the market is articulated (Brockhaus, 1982). In 1986, Timmons will support this idea by finding that the most successful entrepreneurs have acquired many years of experience in the field they have started their business. Studies also have shown that a lack of experience can result to a shorter career as an entrepreneurs (Ronstadt, 1984).
To sum up, the side which argue for the fact that entrepreneurship is something which can be taught is not wrong. Indeed, as discussed in this part, some knowledge an entrepreneur should have can be learnt by an individual in school or university. Some others are learnt through the professional career.
We can easily say that many factors play a role in an entrepreneur life in order to be successful. The question "is an entrepreneur made or born?" does not have one precise answer, as we saw, it may differ from one person to another.
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In this essay, we have developed the fact that some traits of personality are inborn and cannot be gained by everyone, the need for achievement, the positive outlook, the need for autonomy, the locus of control and the risk taking tendency. These traits can play a massive role in making an entrepreneur successful or not. Nevertheless, usually, between the time a person will spend in university, learning the skills needed to set up his own business, and the moment he or she will actually do it, there is a gap. This gap will give him the opportunity to gain work experience and business experience which will be vital for him and for his future organisation.
The best is to be a balance these factors. Neither the person with the perfect inborn personality traits or these with the best education can expect to be successful as an entrepreneur. Having the good personality traits is an excellent start but when it is build up with a strong business and education experience it is even better. In other words, a successful entrepreneur is neither born nor made, they are born and made.
The question we could ask ourselves now is to know if there is some factors more critical than the others in the success of an entrepreneur and if there is, what are they and how should we manage them ?