Is it an entrepreneur’s natural ability that allows them to succeed or is it a set of learned skills that stem from education and practice?

In this context, we define talent to be an individual’s innate ability to do something well whereas skills are work or activities done well due to practice.

Entrepreneurship as a talent

Some argue that entrepreneurs are born, not made. 

Gallup discusses research that has established significant relationships between entrepreneurial talents such as “need for achievement, risk propensity, passion, creativity, autonomy and self-efficacy” and entrepreneurial outcomes. For example, researchers at the University of Giessen found that self-efficacy has a high correlation with start-up creation and success. Moreover, entrepreneurs who are risk takers are more likely to thrive in uncertainty and complexity. 

Gallup assessed 2,500 US entrepreneurs and found that higher levels of entrepreneurial talent (referenced above) indicated business success. As more talented entrepreneurs compared to their less talented counterparts are: 

  • “three times more likely to build large businesses and to grow them significantly
  • four times more likely to create jobs
  • four times more likely to exceed profit goals
  • five times more likely to exceed sales goals”

Further, the Guardian discussed that those with innate preferences for intuition and perceiving were significantly more likely to describe themselves as entrepreneurs. Meaning that entrepreneurs are more likely to:

  • “Focus on the future
  • Trust hunches 
  • Enjoy novelty 
  • Leap rapidly between thoughts,”

However, the Guardian made the point that “every personality type can and does start businesses.”. No personality type would make up for external factors like a weak business plan, lack of capital and investment or producing the right product at the wrong time.

Entrepreneurship as a skill

Babson College promotes the view that “entrepreneurs… are not born. It’s a muscle that can be developed with time and practice”.

A recent article published by Forbes this year supports this view. They suggest that innovative thinking, experience and knowledge are crucial for entrepreneurs. 

  • Entrepreneurs learn how to think innovatively. They learn to see problems as opportunities and leverage new solutions. Creative Problem Solving (CPS) can be practised to rethink, clarify and address problems.
  • Entrepreneurs learn from experience. They take mistakes and turn them into teachable moments.
  • Knowledge is crucial for entrepreneurs. This is not an innate skill; it is acquired through education (formal or not). People seek out entrepreneurs due to their knowledge of their business area.

Overall, entrepreneurs may possess innate talents that enable them to deal well with complexity, and uncertainty, enjoy novelty and look toward the future. However, entrepreneurship is a skill which entrepreneurs are able to build through experience, accruing knowledge and practising CPS. Entrepreneurial education may therefore be a worthwhile investment, for future start-up founders and entrepreneurs looking to develop their skill sets.