Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

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The Robert Gordon University |
BSM 2530 Launching a New Venture
|
Are entrepreneurs born or made?|

ID: 1011838
2011-3-19
Word Count: 2,438|

Introduction

The term entrepreneur is not a recent invention. It was first coined in the eighteenth century by Richard Cantillon, who identified the risk-bearing function of an entrepreneur (Jennings et al. 1994). According to Morrison (1999 p30), entrepreneurs can be regarded as “first among equals in the process of wealth creation”. Moreover, entrepreneurs are presented as economic heroes (Cannon 1991), who “combining the ability to innovate and challenge the established equilibrium of economy and society whilst in the process of recreating it” (Morrison 1999 p28).

There are two schools of thought about what makes an entrepreneur. The first is that anyone can do it if they really want to, provided they put in the effort. The second is that entrepreneurs are born and not made, which means you have to be a certain type of person, and if you are not that type, you are wasting your time. The aim of this essay is to critically analyze the both schools of thought and provide justification for arguments.

The born or made debate

It is a longstanding debate: are entrepreneurs made or born? Morrison (1999) states that the early studies of the origins of the entrepreneur, which concentrated almost entirely on emphasizing in-born personalities and motivations, assumed that the entrepreneurial flair was inherent in the individual. Such a trait model of behaviour argues that a trait being a persisting characteristic of the personality which differentiates him or her from others. Woods, referenced by Bolton (2000 p15), suggests that “75 per cent of our personality traits are due to genetic influence and 25 per cent due to environmental influence”. We have seen too many failed entrepreneurs, who have lost the family home and whose marriage has failed, to believe that educators can make people into entrepreneurs. We are particularly concerned that those who score twenty-five out of hundred should be advised ‘You still have a chance. Go for it’. Furthermore, research at the University of Minnesota on identical twins separated at birth and reared in different environments shows that character traits are shaped by genetics (Bolton 2000). According to a survey by Northeaster University's School of Technological Entrepreneurship, 62% of entrepreneurs say they were inspired to start their own companies by their innate drive. Work experience and the success of their peers were cited by only 21% and 16%, respectively, as factors. The DNA of true entrepreneurs propels them to get on the roller coaster ride that comes with launching a venture. They defiantly disregard red flags of caution, the words of naysayers, or any statistics that conclude their business may fail (Black Enterprise 2007).

On the other hand, Chell et al., referenced by Morrison (1999), state that many of the identified entrepreneurial characteristics are the same abilities and skills that could be applied to most successful people, such as Olympic athletes, Premier Division football players, or leading politicians. It just so happens that the individual has chosen the arena of business as a means of self-satisfaction. Thus, it is extremely difficult to explain why the individual chooses to apply a number of the identified traits within an entrepreneurial business context, rather than in some other sphere of life. This approach does not ignore the genetic influence on personality traits, but advances discussion through linking them to the social context of the individual. Furthermore, it has been suggested that entrepreneurs often shared common features and experiences of social context, which distinguish them from other individuals (Carter and Cachon 1988). Examples of this are relative to, for instance, ethnic minority groups, family businesses, and female self-employed. These are defined as antecedent...
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