Entrepreneurs Are Born

Entrepreneurs Are Born

Through the course of work, I have met some very capable marketing executives climbing the corporate ladder very successfully. They make a good income, collect fat bonuses and receive their deserving promotions year after year. With their knowledge and experience, they could have started their advertising agencies, marketing consultancy or branding expertise companies easily. However, they have no guts to quit. And they admit it readily, maybe with a hint of resignation.

I know exactly how they feel. I was moving along really well as an Account Executive in a full-fledged advertising agency. I made it to Senior Manager in a few short years and everything looked set for life – Directorship, here I come. I never thought of becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, even when everything went to the dogs, the agency shut down, my next employer laid us off within months, I still never thought to start my own company! I was trained to get my degree, get a good job and be set for life. At that point, it was more like “be sad for life…”

During that economic downtime in 1998, I was barely making a living running projects for a few ad agencies. They could not hire me full time. Then, one day, a financial controller from one of the agencies asked me a question that set me on a totally different path. He asked: “You are already running the entire project for this agency, why then, are you not running your own advertising agency?”

That question struck me from out of the blue. I was not a “boss”. I did not even know how to spell “entrepreneur”. But what he said was so totally true, I was doing everything short of hanging out my own shingles! With that realization, I took a huge step. With less than $3,000 in the bank, and nothing to fall back on, I started my own company. My first check came in at a whopping $117.00 which did not even cover the fees for me to register and setup my own company. But it was the sweetest hundred-odd dollars I ever had.

“Entrepreneurs have a need to achieve; and once having done so, the need to do it all over again.” – Greg Watson

Am I an entrepreneur, born and true, because I run 2 ad agencies today? Frankly, after reading this excellent article by Greg Watson on “DNA of an Entrepreneur” where he declared: Entrepreneurs are Born, I have my doubts.

I have done all the things that an entrepreneur need to do. However, I do not see myself as having the character of a born entrepreneur as defined by Greg Watson and as outlined in the brief, but poignant article. I have trained, no, forced myself to become an excellent entrepreneur for the sake of survival. I’m good at that but I was definitely not born to it. The fire was not in-built, it was ignited by force of the circumstance and environment. This is why when I read Jim Collins’ Good to Great, I have to admit that I am merely at level “Good”. It’s takes much more commitment and sacrifices to make it to “Greatest”. And in the midst of “taking care of business”, I doubt I have the fortitude to make it that final step. But I know that as I strive to give the best value to my clients in each and every project, I am inching towards a higher greatness. Maybe one day, despite my not being born and entrepreneur, I can stand at the finish line, look back, and declare “What a successful entrepreneurial journey!”

For those marketers who are starting their entrepreneurial journey or wondering if they have what it takes to be successful, I strongly recommend you to read Greg Watson’s 10 characteristics and 1 core value of entrepreneurship in his aptly titled “DNA of an Entrepreneur“.

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After Note: I have written another post, Are You a Born Entrepreneur?, and over there, I have invited several friends to join me in this discussion. They have responded. Do take time to visit their blogs and read their take:

Entrepreneurs: Born or Made. Does it matter? (by Robin Bal)
Entrepreneurs are Born? (by Calvin Warr)

Check out my other posts

4 Great Tips to Selecting The Best Marketing or Advertising Agency
4 Great Tips To Spotting and Hiring a Good AE (Account Executive)
How to Select and Brief a Copywriter?

[tags]entrepreneurs, advertising, agency[/tags]

34 Replies to “Entrepreneurs Are Born”

  1. Just to share my thoughts…

    Actually, as Robert Kiyosaki has demonstrated in Rich Dad Poor Dad, most successful executives don’t dare to quit because they are deep in Liabilites. If they quit, they’ll go broke within months or even weeks.

    If these executives have been more financially-intelligent and concentrated on investing their income in Assets, they too can become financially-free, without the need to become entrepreneurs and potentially suffering the same failure rate as 90% of people who start their own businesses.

    Having said that, I do agree that entrepreneurs are a special breed of people who are determined to live their lives by deliberate design, rather than letting circumstances dictate how they should live.

    You said it yourself Vivienne – “I am inching towards a higher greatness”. This captures a key essence of entrepreneurs – the continuous pursuit of becoming larger than themselves!

  2. Good for you too, Vivienne. I went broke and in debt from my business failure back in 2003. Even though I’ve now having a “regular” job, I have never given up my dreams of returning to my own business.

    I believe you are meant for an even greater “greatness” Vivienne! Who knows if I’d engage your service in future, hah!

  3. Hi, Vivienne,

    What you’ve narrated in your article just the same thoughts are reeling in my mind. I’ve been thinking it’s someone else’s prerogative, but not mine.
    How true it is? It’s the journey that is important as you rightly said. The whole article reflects the mindset of a typical career oriented person like most of the ilk.
    Thanks for the info.
    Look forward for great articles from you !!!

  4. Hi Michael
    I believe thoughts become words, words become actions and actions become habits. Remind yourself that your “dreams” are actually “goals”, and you’ll realize them faster. Thank you for your kind words and I certainly like you to engage my services in the very, very near future. May success be with you. :)

  5. Hi Solomon
    Nice to hear from you again, and really appreciate your kind words. Keep our mind, attitude and body young, we’ll always be in a spirit of learning, progressing and achieving. Let me know if those books and blogs I recommended are beneficial to you. Cheers to your success. :)

  6. It comes back to the question of “Is leader made or born?”

    This question can set us into debating till the end of time yet we won’t have an answer.

    But I truly believe, most of the time, the environment does plays its part to shape us. Actual fact, environment plays a big part in shaping us.

    The environment did produce some great leaders from the past. The same can be said for entrepreneur. We can be made.

  7. Dear Vivienne,
    First time I’m leaving a post on your blog as this latest article is very well written and has struck a chord in me as well.
    I am also what you would term as “forced by the environment” to be an entrepreneur… definitely not a born one.
    However, I believe both exist. And as you know, after our BSE course last year, once we realise our purpose of adding value to the world… we can not help but gravitate towards this..because as an entrepreneur, the amount of value we can add to the world is limitless.
    All the best to us entrepreneurs on this journey…it’s sweet, sour and bitter.. a complex experience.. but it’s something we can call our own..
    Cheers to “higher greatness” =)
    Joseph Tan

  8. Hi Joe
    From ash to phoenix, indeed entrepreneurs can be made. Without the Asian financial crisis, I will not have moved out of my comfort zone to venture into a new frontier. Let us all scale to a greater height of success and fulfillment.

  9. Hi Joseph
    Nice to get in touch after more than a year. BSE’s focus on “Good to Great” and Buckminister Fuller’s values plus Jay Abraham’s “Preeminence” have made a strong impact on me. I’ll always remember to add value to a client (and even a prospect) before I start asking for returns. I can definite resonate to your your last sentence that the journey is “sweet, sour and bitter … but it’s something we can call our own. Yes, tears and laughters, they are all ours to celebrate. Cheers to “higher greatness” :)

  10. Great article.

    I was earning a good pay, traveling half the world, stay in posh hotels, fancy title etc… but something just not quite right. I was not happy until one day: The day that I started my business with no money. I feel really alive and living with a sense of purpose.

    Yes, there are challenges. There are partners who drop out half way. There are tears that my employees can’t see. There are nights that my mind can’t rest. There are days that I thought it is the end etc… But midst all these chaos being a entreprenuer, I found peace, passion, love and fulfillment and ton of human experiences…. apart from financial success.

    Given a chance to go back in time (01 July 03), I will still make that decision and be an entreprenuer.

    P/S: It is amazing how our intention can really create miracle.

  11. Hi Ken
    I can resonate that. Until today, I have my teeth grinding moments and sleepless nights, worrying about things that I wouldn’t share with my team. Still, I enjoy what I’m doing. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Wow! Good post! I would view myself very much a “corporate” person. Somehow, there is a great and terrible fear of breaking out into the unknown. Yet, there is a restlessness. I really don’t know. Food for thought here…

  13. Hi Vivienne & fellow entrepreneurs!

    Great post once again.. i always look forward to your latest articles and it’s not often we get an insight into the minds of fellow entrepreneurs (aspiring or successful ones).
    I can truly resonate with what you said, along with Ken’s… when we start our own business and suffer sleepless nights, limited budgets, uncertainty and feel like giving in… when we see the perks and ‘stable’ life our friends in the corporate world are enjoying in their ‘jobs’.. sometimes we wonder if it’s all worth it being an entrepreneur…
    However, we won’t know unless we give it a try.
    I always remind myself “it’s better to have lived and lost, than never to have lived at all, wondering & regretting what might have been”.

    Yep, start with the end in mind, visualize your goals as they all say… but its not the destination that counts but the journey and what we learn along the way.


  14. Hi Edmund
    Whenever I felt like throwing in the towel, I’ll tell myself to hang in there. Maybe, I will see my cheese when I stumble around the next corner. Success is always around the corner when we work towards it and not just talk about it. Stay with your belief in “giving forward”. That was a noble business model you shared with me and I’ll like to contribute in whatever small way I can.

  15. Hi vivienne, thanks for the mention! I ejoyed reading the comments and the thoughts of the other bloggers! This is a fantastic way of learning from one another! Thanks!

  16. Hi Vivienne,
    Such a great discussion to cherish here!
    I would like to sum up what I learnt from the great discussion:

    Vivienne… I know that as I strive to give the best value to my clients in each and every project.

    Charles…Entrepreneurs are a special breed of people who are determined to live their lives by deliberate design, rather than letting circumstances dictate how they should live.

    Joseph…Because as an entrepreneur, the amount of value we can add to the world is limitless

    Ken Chee…midst all these chaos being a entreprenuer, I found peace, passion, love and fulfillment and ton of human experiences…. apart from financial success.

    Edmund…it’s better to have lived and lost, than never to have lived at all, wondering & regretting what might have been”…start with the end in mind…
    Thanks for the great insighs…! You made me more wise through this discussion.
    Thank you Vivienne!

  17. I’ve been working for entrepreneurs since 2003, and agree with Watson’s statement listed above. People returns again and again, to start new ventures. If you track the same person, it’s clear that success or failure, good times and bath times are source of opportunities for his entrepreneurial spirit.

  18. Hi Adrian
    Some people are gifted with entrepreneurial traits and even then, they put in their 10,000 hours to be successful. For those who got to learn, well, as long as we put in 20,000 or 30,000 hours, we will eventually be successfully to. Who do we want to become is the key question to answer.

  19. Only for those with a strong desire to be one coupled with an equally strong commitment to go against all odds. It’s not without reasons that Robert Kyosaki said only 5% entrepreneurs survived after 5 years in business.

  20. @ Vivienne – I do agree with you citing that only 5% entrepreneurs survive after 5 years in business. I can highly attest to it :) Although I am sure when these entrepreneurs start their business again, they would have learned their lessons.

  21. Part of the learning process is unlearning. I unlearn to learn and then re-learn. If we do the same thing over and over again yet yearn for a different result, we are not being very smart. Yet so many times, it is so much easier to stay in the comfort zone and do the same old familiar stuff. For entrepreneurs to survive, sustain and succeed, being able to Ready Fire Aim (and not Ready Aim Fire) is important. We may not know if we are on the right track. Just have the courage to take the first step into the uncharted land and tweak and adjust along the way. I’m sure somewhere somehow, the cheese will be at the next corner or next next corner.

  22. Hi,
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful information i like your post and i also like your recommendations “DNA of an Entrepreneur” by Greg Watson. I hope both the readings help me in my career’s journey.


  23. I am very much the same as I did not start out with any intention to be an entrepreneur, nor did it come naturally.

    I was more forced into it and from a place of fear, I was able to figure out enough to make a decent living.

    Now 10 years later, there is still anxiety that goes with being the boss, but compared to the toxicity of the corporate world and the anxiety that went with that, I’ll stick with what I’m doing.

    Certainly not great at it, but decent.

    I guess the only thing “born” into me for it was the willingness to take risks and the knowledge that continuous focus and hard work will always bear fruit.

  24. Hi Taylor
    I shared your sentiment. I believe a little anxiety is good to keep us on our toes so that we don’t get too complacent. The learning curve I have over the past decades is that I cannot retreat into my comfort zone, once the jobs are streaming in, when the rest of the world is changing. Picking up the pace after emerging from the comfort zone as an entrepreneur is steep and definitely too pricy. Especially right now, when the talk of economy going further south in early 2012. How’s the real estate business in your part of the world doing?

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