It is curious the way that entrepreneurs and their motives are commonly misunderstood by the general population, the media, educators, investment advisors, and even experienced psychologists. It is a lack of understanding that may have contributed to the absence of clarity on entrepreneurs’ motivations, personality type, and character strengths. Such a caricature of an entrepreneur would suggest characteristics like inventor, creativity, risk taker, self absorbed, profit motivated, or even ruthless. The media frequently concludes that successful entrepreneurs are “risk takers”, and infer (incorrectly) that risk-taking makes one successful. It’s actually the failed entrepreneurs were more likely the true “risk takers.”
After working closely with entrepreneurs for over decades, I can say that the caricature of the prototypical entrepreneur painted by the popular media is both naive and incorrect. Experience shows that these are emphatically not Ivy educated MBA’s with a Gordon Gecko approach to profit, nor are they the typical brilliant tinkerers who were driven to invent the next light bulb. Rather frequently, these self-described “ADD dyslexic misfits” don’t fit neatly into stereotypical descriptions. They may be, if anything, less educated than the general population, infrequently business school graduates, and yet they are the most fascinating, caring, generous, and at the same time persistent people you will ever meet. Often, they are charmingly candid about their strengths and their weaknesses. Profit motivated? Hardly. I have spent countless hours counseling entrepreneurs on the survival need for above average levels of profitability and cash flow to support their growing operations. They are optimists, ever enthusiastic about the prospects for their organizations, but profit as an objective, or even a result, is usually far down the list of priorities. These emphatically are not “Trump-like” characters. They are more often occupied with trying to build sustaining organizations, ones that have longevity beyond themselves as mere individual owners. They almost always think of their organizational members as extended family.