Do You Have the Right DNA to Start the Next Twitter?

Last Updated Jan 13, 2011 5:21 PM EST

While researching my first book, I studied thousands of business owners and discovered that entrepreneurs usually fall into one of three personality types defined by their motivations:

1. Mountain Climbers
You want to start a business to achieve something special and leave your mark on the world. You set big goals, and friends describe you as "driven." For you, life's greatest moments occur when you achieve a hard-won objective.

2. Freedom Fighters
You want to start a business because you can't stand working for someone else. You like making the decisions and controlling things. For you, building a business represents the ultimate in freedom to decide what to do and how to work.

3. Craftspeople
You take pride in your work and melt when somebody recognizes your unique skill or ability. You want to start a business because it will allow you to do what you're really good at.

The most important question you can answer -- before you start your business, develop a demo, write a launch plan, buy business cards or register a domain name -- is to ask yourself why you want to run your own company . . . because the answer changes everything.

If you decide you are a Mountain Climber and are motivated by achievement, you need to shelve your need for independence. To achieve something really big, like growing the next Groupon or Twitter, you need to marshal a large group of people to rally around your idea. You'll need cofounders, advisers, investors, bankers and smart employees, all of whom get to have an opinion. Having a say will get these people to care about your idea, which means that achieving something great will come at the expense of your independence. Mark Zuckerberg couldn't have done it alone. Nor can you. So to build the next Facebook, you can't be a lone wolf.

On the other hand, if you decide you are a Freedom Fighter and are motivated to start a business because you don't want to work for someone else, don't expect to launch the next Google. People who need independence grow smaller companies because their need for control undermines their growth. They decide not to share equity with key employees and lose some top talent in the process. They don't want outside money because they can't stomach the idea of being second-guessed by investors and bankers.

Finally if you decide your motivation is to master a skill -- become the best copywriter, massage therapist, real estate agent, etc. -- understand that you're not starting a business; you're creating a job for yourself. There is nothing wrong with that, but don't expect to get rich. There is something admirable -- beautiful even -- about dedicating your life's work to truly mastering a skill, but your need for mastery over your craft will undermine your ability to grow a business at every turn. The idea of hiring someone else to do the work is anathema for you. But perfection is the enemy of production. Mountain Climbers ship when the product is 80 percent right and let the market feedback loop help them get the rest of the way. Craftspeople can't live with the idea of submitting anything other than their best work.


More from Built To Sell:

John Warrillow is the author of Built to Sell: Turn Your Business into One You Can Sell. He has started and exited four companies and was named one of America's most influential marketers by BtoB Magazine in 2008. Think you can sell your business? Take the Sellability Index Quiz. (photo courtesy of Flickr/HikingArtist.com)
  • John Warrillow

    John Warrillow is the author of Built to Sell: Turn Your Business into One You Can Sell. He has started and exited four companies. Most recently, he transformed Warrillow & Co. from a boutique consultancy into a recurring revenue model subscription business, which was acquired by The Corporate Executive Board. Watch this video to hear John's thoughts on starting and growing a business you can sell.

    John and his book "Built to Sell" have been featured in CNN, MSNBC, Time magazine and ABC News. John was recognized by BtoB Magazine's "Who's Who" list as one of America's most influential business-to-business marketers.

    John now divides his time between homes in Toronto, Canada, and Aix-en-Provence, France. He is a husband and father of two rambunctious boys.