The psychology of entrepreneurs — what can we adopt?

by | 17 Dec 2020 | Leadership

Serial successful entrepreneurs are not normal — they are anomalies, outliers or perhaps even freaks of nature, if you will, according to Karen Thomas-Bland, founder at Seven, a business transformation consultancy based in London. They create super successful organisations, often multiple times, and are compelled to do so. Being an entrepreneur has never been so cool. Graduates emerge out of university today, with the greatest kudos being to those who ‘go it alone’ and abandon the once sought after corporate life. Others view corporate life as the day job — a way to pay the bills, whilst at the same time working on their big idea.

We spend time in and around the London start-up ecosystem and what strikes us time and time again is that a bunch of people are motivated to spend their evenings, weekends and even work through the night (how did all-night raves become all-night coding sessions?) to develop their idea and make it a reality, by collaborating, sharing and engaging with others.

So what is in entrepreneurs make-up that compels them to do this? And what can everyone else learn that enables him or her to repeat an entrepreneur’s successful patterns of behaviour?

Today, everyone needs to be an entrepreneur to survive. Large corporates are challenging their workforce to ‘think like an entrepreneur’ and create programmes to entice entrepreneurs to work with them on their next big thing — accelerators, ventures, competitions, incubators, collaboration platforms, to name a few.

Whether you work in a large corporation, are starting your own business or are working in a public organisation, you are creating value out of your craft and more importantly convincing others you are the best person in the world to do it. Globalisation, competition and pace of change mean it really is all about the best person for the job.

We know, based on the psychometric tests in the market today, that successful entrepreneurs sit across all of the spectrums: introversion/extroversion, thinking/feeling and so on — there is no common pattern of behaviour preference. Our own hypothesis is that it goes deeper than this and there are five key internal drivers that get an entrepreneur out of bed in the morning and keeps them awake through the night:

  • A desire to create something, sell something and win people’s ‘heart share’ — creating something people will love to use.
  • Passion and resilience to overcome setbacks and a strong desire to prove to themselves and others they can change the status quo.
  • Masters of reinvention, they try things quickly and if it works well, that’s great; if not, they try something else. Failure doesn’t demobilise or paralyse, instead it spurs a new set of actions, based on quick learning cycles.
  • A need to connect — they are relationship builders and draw people in, willing to reach out to as diverse a set of people as possible and social media makes this easy.
  • A willingness to make personal sacrifices, take risks and do whatever it takes to achieve.

On top of this, entrepreneurs are always a bit different, perhaps eccentric and maybe even completely off-the-wall (all in a good way!). They don’t feel the need to fit in and are masters at standing out from the crowd.

Whilst not everyone will be the next Zuckerberg, Bezos or Branson, what we can all do is take what makes them successful into our own roles and companies. If just 10% of any population became entrepreneurs imagine what we could achieve.

Based in London and with over 24 years’ global experience, Karen Thomas-Bland is often cited as one of the top business transformation and M&A integration consultants and coaches in the world. She is a trusted advisor to boards, executive teams and investors, having led complex, enterprise-wide turnarounds and integrations to $105bn turnover. She writes for many publications including The Times, FT, Association of MBAs and Management Today.