Entrepreneurial People Are Not A Species
In our a prior post we unpacked the commonly held belief that anyone who is crazy enough to go into business for themselves—or work with someone who is—must be wired differently than “normal” people. Because normal people are content to go their J. O. B., put in their 8-9 hours and then head home, free of the headaches of meeting payroll, launching a new product or keeping the lights on. In other words, they have a life. They like having a life. And they don’t need or want the hassle of running a business. Most new businesses fail anyway, right? Who needs the stress?
Actually, quite a few people seek out that kind of stress.
But why would anyone believe that those kind of people are all the same?
Entrepreneurial DNA Isn’t a Personality Trait
Joe Abraham, the author of one of Entrepreneur Magazine‘s top picks for entrepreneur-focused books, discovered there are four types of entrepreneurs. How an entrepreneur “does” business is determined by their entrepreneurial DNA (or “eDNA”). He found four kinds of entrepreneurs. Their entrepreneurial DNA acts as the filter through which they make business decisions.
People often ask me if eDNA isn’t the same as personality type. Many business people might describe themselves with DISC, MBTI, Kolbe or StrengthsFinder. However, none of them capture the essence of entrepreneurial DNA. While all of these tools, and countless others, are very helpful in understanding our personality and behaviors, none of them provide insights into why we behave in very specific and predictable ways within our business or work environments.
Four Entrepreneurial Styles
Over time, Mr. Abraham’s research unearthed four ways entrepreneurs engage in business. The four types are:
- Builder: A Builder’s focus is on infrastructure. Consequently, they measure success by square footage, personnel, and net revenues. Think Marcus Lemonis, from “The Profit.” The show perfectly captures the inner workings of Builder DNA in action.
- Opportunist: People with Opportunist DNA hunt for “The Next Big Thing.” It drives them. Success is measured by discovering a wildly cool opportunity before anyone else does, jumping in and riding it to the top, then bailing out (selling) at the just the right time. Richard Branson is a great example.
- Specialist: Comprising roughly half of all entrepreneurial DNA, Specialists are steady workers. They provide great experiences for the clients and customers. Their focus is on delivering “Raving Fan” service. They are often highly pedigreed, with specialized knowledge, plaques on the wall and multiple certifications. Think attorneys, accountants, financial advisors and agents.
- Innovator: Innovators are rare, by comparison. They focus on “The Mission.” They are the mad scientists, creating products and services we need, though sometimes we didn’t know it. Steve Jobs was a model of the Innovator in action.
Five Game-Changing Questions
I first heard Joe Abraham on a webinar. He talked about his discovery of four entrepreneurial DNA types—BOSI (from which he named his company, BOSI Global). His insights stunned me. They were both a revelation to me and a revolution. I immediately wanted to join his company and soon became a certified BOSI partner. Helping others become clear on their own eDNA became part of my mission. Here’s why.
1. What If Your eDNA Is In The Wrong Industry?
I spent 14 years in the financial services industry, specifically in financial planning. All but one of those years I was in a leadership role. Recruiting was a primary task. Most people know at least a few people that are “financial” somethings: advisors, agents, etc. Many of them have designations after their name. The more they have the more they reveal their specialist DNA. One fellow I worked with had 7 and needed an extra line on his business card to fit them all on. The biggest business challenge for Specialists is standing out in a crowded marketplace. However, to do that requires leaning hard into O-DNA. But Opportunist DNA runs on a much different wavelength than Specialist DNA. The resulting internal conflict most financial professionals experience is why the industry has such an appalling career tenure.
2. What Happens When You Don’t Know Your eDNA?
Chances are good that entrepreneurs will naturally gravitate to using their primary DNA. So, a person with Specialist leanings will land in a Specialist kind of business. But that in no way means they are operating at their best. Why? Because they don’t know their eDNA. Neither does their boss. Most companies start out because a Builder wants to build something. But when the company is a few years into success, there are multiple employees with no awareness of anyone’s natural business aptitudes. The result is this: most companies are missing critical eDNA in their enterprise. They have one or two Builders (probably the owners), perhaps an Opportunist (typically the Sales Manager), quite a few Specialists and no Innovators. Then they wonder why their sales flattened out.
3. What If I Try To Use All Four eDNA Types?
It’s no surprise that while each eDNA type has amazing strengths they bring to their business engagement, they also bring liabilities. Not understanding this reality can carry as much risk, if not more, than playing in the wrong eDNA sandbox.
EXAMPLE: The last thing a strong Innovator wants to do is discuss expansion plans and human resource issues. It’s more than an agonizing waste of their time. It’s a clear and present threat to the mission! But what if they haven’t yet empowered a Builder into their business? Who else will take care of these necessary decisions? They can’t be ignored. Not for long.
Builders often expect their Specialists to behave as if they are pulsing with O-DNA, crushing the competition’s sales on a quarterly basis. Pity those poor Specialists that don’t meet their required quota.
Many entrepreneurs have all four eDNA types within them. But playing to your strengths is always more impactful than pretending to be strong in all areas.
4. Are There “Challenges” To eDNA Types?
Yes, there are. Each type has a powerful strength in business. And each one has an area that can inhibit growth and progress, all the more so when it is unknown. Because what you don’t know about you can’t deal with. What you don’t deal with can hurt you.
It is crucial to understand that these areas for growth are simply the corollary—or partner—to the strength. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t powerful in their own way. Entrepreneurs with Builder DNA may have relationship problems. It is not uncommon for a strong Builder to leave damaged employees or family members in their wake. Opportunist DNA can be dazzled by The Next Big Thing, jumping from one new thing to another. Rinse and repeat a few times and there are a lot of great opportunities that didn’t get enough attention to reach fulfillment. Think SOS (shiny-object-syndrome). Specialists are vexed by marketing themselves effectively. They want to stand out against their competition…but not too much…which means they don’t really get noticed at all. Strong Innovator DNA will often lead the entrepreneur deep into their compelling mission but with a failing business, since there is no one building or promoting it.
5. Isn’t This eDNA Stuff Just Hype?
If you are inclined to dismiss the bedrock concept embedded in entrepreneurial DNA, the odds are that you also dismiss MBTI, DISC and all other ways of understanding what makes us tick. The unique position of BOSI’s approach to entrepreneurs is, for many of them, nothing short of liberating. Finally the “idea guy” understands why he isn’t driven to build a big company but is nearly possessed about bringing a new product or service to the world. Or an accountant finally seizes on the need for delegating out their marketing efforts, because they just find it too uncomfortable. Or the hyper-focused gal who wants to out-sell all of her male counterparts sees that jumping from company to company is actually not moving her forward; it’s her entrepreneurial DNA whispering to her.
Entrepreneurs are not created equal. Understanding your natural business impulse makes a huge difference in how effective you’ll be and how happy you’ll be doing it. Click on MyE-DNA and discover your Entrepreneurial DNA. It costs nothing more than about 3 minutes of your time.
And if you want to learn more about BOSI, watch Joe deliver his amazing TEDx talk.
Engage here. What’s your story?