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Which Type of Entrepreneur Are You?

After a recent post about Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak I received a fair amount of email heat for arguing there are two basic types of entrepreneurs: People who love building businesses (Jobs), and people who love working with the technology, idea, or premise behind the business (Wozniak).

Like many bloggers (and managers and leaders and CEOs and business owners) I'm never wrong -- I just don't always have all the information needed to be completely right.

So I contacted Joe Abraham, the author of Entrepreneurial DNA: The Breakthrough Discovery That Aligns Your Businesses to Your Unique Strengths.

Joe takes my original premise a lot farther. He has identified four types of innate entrepreneurial style (basically a person's "business DNA") and shows entrepreneurs how to leverage those individual strengths and leadership styles:

Builder: Loves building a business; the type of business is less important than the fact it can be built into an all-conquering enterprise. Builders like creating big brands, require tremendous control over day to day activities, and typically have experience and expertise in multiple industries. Drop a Builder into a company and within hours they can determine what's working, what's not working, what needs to be changed -- and most importantly can get employees to buy in. Builders eat, sleep, and think strategy and are great at communicating their vision for the company.

  • Strengths: Excel at raising money, putting systems in place, launching businesses successfully. Many of the advisers at business incubators and centers for entrepreneurship are Builders because they are skilled at execution.
  • Weaknesses: Temperamental, high output, often control people around them more than is reasonable. The Builder tends to leave a wake of relationship casualties behind. Little interest in businesses that won't become $5 to $200 million companies. Once a business plateaus, Builders tend to get bored and start looking for another business to grow.
Opportunist: The Opportunist is a speculator and risk taker. (We all have a little Opportunist in us.) The classic Opportunist is a day trader today, flips real estate tomorrow, and takes a sales job next week. Opportunists want to be at the right place at the right time to make as much money as fast as possible. Think of an Opportunist as someone who sees business as a vehicle: If they are riding in a Hyundai of opportunity and see you riding in a Ferrari of opportunity, they'll gladly jump into your car. Carrot driven, an Opportunist will work incredibly hard when the carrot seems big enough.
  • Strengths: Motivated, extremely positive, huge work effort, natural born salespeople. Failure is a minor irritation; an Opportunist can fail today, lose thousands of dollars, and wake up tomorrow eager to roll.
  • Weaknesses: Impulsive, can quickly lose focus, prone to making snap decisions.
Specialist: Specialists develop a skill and build a business around that skill. Their business is based on expertise and the ability to deliver a product or service: Accountants, plumbers, doctors, writers, programmers, masons... all are Specialists. Think of Specialists as people who tend to define themselves by their trade: "I'm a surgeon." Unlike an Opportunist seeking to get rich quick, Specialists tend to become entrepreneurs so they can be their own boss.
  • Strengths: Focused, analytical, methodical, highly skilled. Can start and run a business for twenty to thirty years or more.
  • Weaknesses: Standing out in a crowded marketplace and effectively marketing the business. Slow to see opportunities to expand, diversify, and grow.
Innovator: Innovators didn't plan to be entrepreneurs; instead they were tinkering with a recipe, a program, or a concept and a business popped up around it. What happens next? The Innovator wants to stay in the "lab" and do more research and development. Innovators want to create the next cool thing, not build the next cool company.
  • Strengths: Innovative, creative, able to develop breakthrough intellectual properties.
  • Weaknesses: Don't know anything about business, management, finance... and don't really care to learn.
Want to know your Entrepreneurial DNA? Getting your individual profile is easy and it's free; just take a quick ten-question test (takes less than 2 minutes) to find out your dominant and secondary DNA.

You might be surprised by the outcome. Three CEO buddies took the test assuming they were Builders; it turns out two are Specialists and one an Opportunist. After a little thought they all agreed the test had them pegged.

I'm a Specialist, with Builder as my secondary DNA. Many people have a blend of DNA types: Richard Branson is an Opportunist who is also the Builder of highly scalable companies in several industries. (Not that I'm comparing myself with Sir Richard, of course.)

For example, many Opportunists assume they are Innovators because they are typically among the first to jump on a new idea for making money. But that's not innovative, that's opportunistic. And many Specialists assume they are Builders because they have run the same successful business for ten years. But unless you have built a multi-million dollar business -- and could parachute into a different business tomorrow and quickly make it a success -- you're a Specialist, not a Builder.

And that's okay. No profile is good or bad nor better or worse. Each has unique strengths and the key is to leverage those strengths. Say you're a Specialist: Align yourself with an Opportunist who can market and sell your services. You'll benefit from the Opportunist's energy and creativity and the Opportunist will benefit from your ability to analyze, create systems, and deliver reliably.

In short, always be who you are and leverage your strengths to connect with the people whose gifts complement yours. When you do, you get to do more of what you love -- and enjoy greater success in the process.


Photo courtesy flickr user Gulltaggen, CC 2.0
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