When you think of entrepreneurs, what beliefs and traits come to mind? It’s quite possible your holding on to one or more misconceptions about what entrepreneurship is and what it requires. And if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur yourself, such misperceptions could be getting in your way.
MIT Sloan Professor Bill Aulet, a long-time-practicing entrepreneur, Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, and author of Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup, says that as more people aspire to become entrepreneurs, it is important to debunk common myths about what makes them successful—the following six in particular:
Myth #1: Entrepreneurs are the smartest and most high-achieving people around. In reality, most entrepreneurs are not the valedictorian of their class. Entrepreneurs are not necessarily the best at every subject, but they have a vision and focus in one area where they see the most potential.
Myth #2: Entrepreneurs are individuals who work alone. False. Research shows that teams are much more likely to succeed than individuals. Successful entrepreneurs find people with the right skills to join their team. Entrepreneurship is truly a team sport.
Myth #3: Entrepreneurs are born not made. This is also false. Research shows that entrepreneurs don’t necessarily come from parents who are entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial skills can be acquired and taught—a fact proven in Aulet’s week-long Entrepreneurship Development Program, which draws aspiring entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to MIT from around the world.
Myth #4: Entrepreneurs love risk. Aulet says that entrepreneurs are not gamblers. A gambler has no control over risk, whereas entrepreneurs take calculated risks in an area where they know they have an advantage, then “de-risk” everything else. In this way, they know how to take risk and use it to their advantage.
Myth #5: Entrepreneurs are successful because they are charismatic. The MIT Leadership Center has shown that charisma is not correlated with success. Instead, successful entrepreneurship is about effecting change through leadership. And success in effecting change is based on 5 key criteria: Do you have a vision? Do you have a sense-making capability to understand what’s going on in the world? Do you have the relationships to make things happen? Are you an innovation engineer – can you take where you are today and get to a future state that hasn’t existed before? And finally, successful entrepreneurs put a personal signature on what they are creating. These factors are much more likely to define entrepreneurial success than charisma.
Myth #6: Entrepreneurs are undisciplined. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As the title of Aulet’s book suggests, it is essential for entrepreneurs to be disciplined in order to achieve success, because they need to accurately execute against larger competitors with limited time and resources.
Aulet’s assures us that entrepreneurship is not magic—it’s a process that can be taught. If you’ve got the spirit of an entrepreneur and the desire to realize that potential, we invite you to join your global peers on the MIT campus for an invigorating week of hands-on learning. Learn more about the Entrepreneurship Development Program.