Research released to mark the release of the Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report 2013 suggests that in order to become a successful entrepreneur, you must be in possession of the ‘e-gene’. The e-gene itself is categorised by six different personality traits that have been identified by Chris Coleridge, Innovation Researcher at the London School of Economics after conducting extensive research into some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs.
Chris Coleridge argues that there are a set of six different personality traits, a combination of which can be identified in all successful entrepreneurs. The personality traits range from a love of taking risks, to the need for achievement being greater than the need for power as well as independence and social distinction.
The finding of the ‘e-gene’ comes as research revealed in Amway’s Global Entrepreneurship Report 2013 shows an increasing number of people are turning to self-employment across the globe. The research discovered that more than two thirds (77%) of the UK has a positive attitude towards self-employment with over one third (34%) wanting to start their own business.
Globally, the UK was ranked 7th out of 24 countries when asked how positively they felt towards self-employment. The report also found that business start-ups are increasingly popular amongst younger generations with 43% of under 30s admitting to wanting to start their own business compared to only 30% of their over 30 counterparts. Men are more likely to start their own business (39%) than women (29%).
Despite the increase in positivity in the UK, (compared to 75% in 2012) two thirds of those polled ranked the fear of failure as an obstacle to setting up their own business, with women more afraid of failure (57%) than men (49%). Both bankruptcy (41%) and the threat of economic crisis (31%) are key factors standing in the way of those who would like to become business owners.
Chris Coleridge, describes this as a positive entrepreneurial trait, that shouldn’t deter anyone from starting their own business:
"Having researched entrepreneurs’ personalities and traits, most of the successful possess an effectual logic – an approach to solving a problem that starts not with the desired end but with the available means, limiting the risk of failure”.
The research also found that many of today’s entrepreneurs are drawn to risk and adventure, supporting the Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report's findings of an overall positive attitude towards self-employment. As the report discovered that the number one reason for starting a business is being able to be your own boss (46%), Coleridge found that entrepreneurs are often not driven by the prospect of financial gain, but rather by their desire for independence and social distinction.
Speaking about the report’s findings, Sheryl Franklin-Worth, Corporate Affairs Manager at Amway UK says: "It takes a very determined and self-motivated individual to see a business through from an initial idea to a viable business. From working closely with a number of business start-ups it is clear to me that possessing at least one of the traits that Chris Coleridge has identified is essential to becoming a successful entrepreneur. It’s great to see such a positive attitude towards self-employment in today’s economic climate, particularly amongst the younger generation.”
The e-gene: What is it about an individual that makes them a successful entrepreneur?
B = difficult background, broken family
M = minority/disadvantaged group
D = disability
R = risk-lover and optimist
N = need for achievement > need for power
I = independence and social distinction
Top 5 identified ‘e-gene’ carriers
1. Julian Dunkerton (B, I) – Founder of SuperDry
Julian moved to Herefordshire aged 14 with his father and stepmother, following his parents’ divorce. He then failed all three of his A-level exams and, with a loan from his mother, began Cult Clothing in Cheltenham (where SuperDry is still based) aged 19. His co-founder in Cult Clothing left after a short time and described him as a megalomaniac; he describes himself, as befits someone seeking independence, not wealth, as someone who "collects shops, not money”.
2. Richard Branson (D, N, R, I) – Founder of Virgin Group
Son of a barrister and grandson of a High Court judge, Branson was privately educated at Stowe School but performed badly—due in part to dyslexia that was later diagnosed. His business exploits ("Student” magazine, after he dropped out of school at 16) were born, he says, "out of frustration” at the limitations placed on him by conventional paths. His many world record attempts show clearly how even the great wealth he achieved did not satisfy his need for achievement—and the business structure he used for the Virgin Group from a very early stage involved significant delegation to trusted lieutenants, also showing that his need for power over others was relatively limited compared to many people in business.
3. Evan Williams (B, I) – Founder of Blogger, Mashable and co-founder of Twitter
After his parent’s divorce, he dropped out of the University of Nebraska and interned unpaid with a mail-order guru in Key West, Florida. He set up a website development agency, but after a few years he shut it down, saying, "Working on other people’s ideas depressed me.” He launched Pyra Labs in June 1999 with Meg Hourihan, but launched the company’s eventual flagship product, Blogger, while she was away on holiday that August, without consulting her. Three years later he bought out his co-founder and in 2003 sold Blogger to Google for $10m. He and some of his former employees went on to found Twitter, of which he was CEO for a time.
4. Anita Roddick (M, B, I) – Founder of The Body Shop
Anita Roddick was the child of Italian immigrants who divorced when she was eight—her stepfather died two years later, and as an adult Roddick’s mother told her that her stepfather had been her real father. Roddick and her husband Gordon ran a series of businesses together, but The Body Shop was founded when her husband left her temporarily to trek across the Americas. Her only ambition was to take £300 a week in sales, and she described the early days of the business as simply ‘trading, making something people will buy.’ The social consciousness behind the company turned out to be a hugely effective point of differentiation, attracting customers and fanatically loyal franchisees, and the company today has over 3000 stores in 55 countries.
5. John Caudwell (B, R) – Founder of Phones4U
John dropped out of his A-levels after his father died, and began a series of businesses alongside his apprenticeship as an engineer at Michelin. Having made his fortune by riding the first wave of the growth of the mobile handset industry, he engages in powerboat racing and long distance cycling, showing an inclination towards seeking out challenge and risk.