The other day I read an interesting book called “Entrepreneurial DNA” by Joe Abraham, the founder of BOSI Global, an operating partner to venture-backed and owner-operated companies. The book is based on Joe’s study of over 1,000 entrepreneurs. The research confirmed the discovery that all entrepreneurs are not all “wired” the same way. The book suggests that entrepreneurs fall into four distinct types of “entrepreneurial DNA’s” that leverage unique strengths, weaknesses and tendencies that are typical in each specific type of entrepreneur.
Image credit: CC by John Goode
A drive to build highly scalable businesses very fast. When this DNA is high in an individual, they break past $5 million in revenue within 2-4 years and keep going to up to $100 million. That’s because these individuals measure success through a very unique lens – infrastructure. It drives the decisions they make and the strategy they build and deploy. They aren’t satisfied with a certain amount of personal income or goodwill toward man. They are Pied Piper-like individuals who are master recruiters of talent, investors and customers. Builder DNA activates certain behaviors like a controlling temperament – leading to a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde like demeanor in the office. Individuals with high Builder DNA tend to struggle most with personal relationships – and typically have a revolving door of talent in their companies.
Image credit: CC by Charles & Hudson
Picture Sir Richard Branson and you have a pretty good idea of what Opportunist DNA is all about. Individuals wired with this DNA are highly optimistic master promoters. They enjoy marketing and selling. They are wired to sniff out well-timed money making opportunities, jump in at the right time, ride the wave of growth up and (hopefully) jump out at the peak. Opportunist DNA measures success based on the amount of money they make (or will make) when they aren’t working. So they are drawn to business opportunities where leverage can be used to create residual and renewal income. This behavioral preset in entrepreneurs makes them impulsive decision makers – especially when it comes to money-making opportunities. A trait that can serve them very well or be the source of their demise.
Image credit: CC by Craig Sunter (Thanx a Million !)
This DNA activates in the experts of our world. No sooner does an individual go through years of schooling, apprenticeship or on-the-job training does this DNA activates – driving the corresponding behaviors. Specialist DNA drives one to be very analytical, relatively risk averse and anti-selling. Specialists generate most of their new business from referrals and networking. They measure success based on their personal income. Their businesses tend to grow fairly well in the startup and early growth phase, but as soon as their personal income hits preset targets, their internal thermostat kicks in – and they go into customer service mode. Research found that most Specialist-owned businesses plateau in revenues well below $5 million. The ones that get past this level take significantly longer to do so than Builder DNA companies, often decades.
Image credit: CC by U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Picture Mark Zuckerberg in the movie The Social Network and you’ll see Innovator DNA activating in the entrepreneur. Like most Innovators, he was doing something he loved, when a business opportunity popped up around him. The breakthrough discovery typically drives this entrepreneur in the “lab” of their business – where they want to invent, design and tinker. They would much rather be in the lab of their business than at the cash register or in the business office. They find operating a business draining. They measure success based on the impact their product or service is having on mankind. “It’s not about the money” you’ll hear them say. “I’d do this for free for the rest of my life if I could”. Individuals with high Innovator DNA control most of the great intellectual property of our time. Unfortunately, they hide in dungeons and find it hard to engage in “business” discussions.
Image credit: CC by OnInnovation
So what does this all mean? For centuries the approach to entrepreneurship has been – what worked for one entrepreneur will work for every entrepreneur – because after all, entrepreneurs are all the same. This research has proven that entrepreneurs come in very different profiles. Some of us are Innovator-Builders. Others are Specialist-Opportunists. Knowing your DNA and the DNA of those surrounding you is mission critical to selecting the business, strategy and team best suited for you. Just because it worked for Richard Branson (Opportunist-Builder) or Bill Gates (Specialist-Builder), doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Based on the above classifications, I am an Opportunist-Builder. If you are curious what type of entrepreneur you are, you can take a free assessment on the BOSI DNA website.
This article was originally published on the Red Rocket VC blog, a consulting and financial advisory firm with expertise in serving the startup, digital and venture community.
Image Credit: CC by Col Ford and Natasha de Vere