An interview with Mark LeBlanc, John Assaraf, and Nancy Michaels, reprinted from Entrepreneur Magazine by permission
Q: Do you think entrepreneurs are made or born? I say born, my partner says made. What do you say? John Assaraf: I actually think it’s a combination of both. We know that 50 percent of our thoughts and actions are genetically based due to our heritage. The other 50 percent we learn from our environment and conditioning as children. What I think determines success in entrepreneurs is whether someone has a burning passion in their belly to make something of their lives regardless of genetics, education or training. There are examples all over the world of both types who come from great business genetics but who don’t do anything grand in business, and then there are those who come up the ranks of poverty to create masterpieces. Give me a hungry-hunter type of personality willing do whatever it takes to create their masterpiece, and I’ll show you a successful businessperson. Nancy Michaels: I’d have to say there are innate qualities that entrepreneurs are born with—self-discipline, ambition, risk takers, etc. That’s not to say people can’t learn some of these skills, but I think the basic attributes of an entrepreneur are within us. I have to say I was heavily influenced by my dad, who had his own accounting business that he initially ran from our home. Home offices were not in vogue back in the 1960s as they are today, and I made an assumption when I was young that everyone owned their own business. In fact, I commented to my parents about how lucky I thought Julia Sullivan was because her dad, the town’s librarian, “owned the library.” When I was 3 I wrapped my dad’s tie around my neck and when my Mom asked me where I was going, I said, “to work.” Although I worked at two companies as an employee before starting my business in 1990, I knew that I would not want to work for someone else for long and always felt I would start my own business. Mark LeBlanc: I think you are both right. Some people seem to have the entrepreneurial DNA in their makeup, while others adopt and adapt to their environments. These people are often encouraged by their parents and family members who might be in business for themselves. Let’s remember that not all business owners are entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs tend to be highly creative, ambitious, risk-takers and often better at starting something versus growing it and running it well. If he or she surrounds themselves with good people, the likelihood of success is greater. Many small-business owners and independent professionals start a business or practice, grow it to a certain level and create a lifestyle that supports their dreams. They may not have the ambition or goal to grow it larger than life and sell it, but they maintain it until retirement or pass it on to a second generation or simply shut it down when the time is right. Most people have the dream of starting a business whether it is full-time or part-time. If you have a good idea, product or service, believe in yourself and surround yourself with the right resources, you can achieve the level of success you desire without necessarily possessing the creative and ambitious traits of an entrepreneur. There is no right or wrong answer, but an understanding of what it will take to succeed. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it.