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You Can't Teach Someone to be an Entrepreneur

What is my path to entrepreneurship?  I'm too cantankerous and pig-headed to be employed by anybody and I make a terrible employee and so that’s how I became an entrepreneur. 

I had started a company before business school exporting U.S.-made pet food to Japan, which is pretty funny actually when you think about it and I was coming out of business school and ended up interviewing at GE Capital of all places in their investment arm and I sat down and they gave me a 12-page questionnaire to fill out while I'm waiting for the interview. I have no patience whatsoever for 12 page questionnaires.

So the woman came into the room and we started talking and I said, “Why would you be interested in somebody like me who started a little company exporting pet food to Japan before?”  “Well at GE we’re looking for all sorts of different viewpoints and we really want different viewpoints to be a part here.”  “We want to look for people who think outside the box.”  And so I said, “Well people who think outside the box don’t fill out 12-page questionnaires, so here you go," and I handed it back to her blank. So I'm really not fit to be an employee of any other enterprise and that’s how I ended up as an entrepreneur.  

And there is the question can you teach entrepreneurship? Can you teach entrepreneurs about skills?  Can you teach them about finance?  Can you teach them about hiring?  Can you teach them about marketing?  Yes, but can you teach entrepreneurship and that’s an open question.  I am not sure you can.  The characteristics of an entrepreneur—they’re internal.  There is a drive.  There is a motivation.  There is a curiosity.  There is a resilience and there is an interest in finding out can I do that.  I'm not sure any of that is teachable per se.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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