If personality is no guide to start-up success – what is?

Business angels will already know this in their gut, but a recent survey of entrepreneurial literature has told us, here at iBusinessAngel, that personality is no guide to success.

Various firms have been developing psychometric tests to identify the personality traits of a successful entrepreneur and it turns out, that there is no agreement on whether any of these work.  So what can research tell us?

In fact, funding of research into entrepreneurial issues in the academic world is beginning to dry up – as Durham University have closed their department for entrepreneurial research, partly in response to the failed hope of being able to teach entrepreneurial skills to carefully selected students.

So, if business angels can’t find a common personality trait, what should an investor look for when interviewing cash hungry entrepreneurs?

Well, there appear to be two ideas that can be supported in the accademic research.

Firstly, becoming a highly successful entrepreneur is a process. It takes time and you can make a pretty good judgement – after interviewing – where someone is on their business path. A colleague of mine suggested that a really experienced entrepreneur is someone who has built a business and lost it, built a second and exited with a healthy gain and now is on their third business.

Okay, you can discuss alternative formula – but you get the idea.

Secondly, how the entrepreneur is able to respond to what is going on around him or her is a critical factor that determines if they are likely to succeed. Or perhaps, to put it another way, how do they deal with uncertainty and difficult situations?

This reminds me of the famous story of the criminal who said ‘I had no choice, I became a criminal because my father was a drunk’ and his brother said ‘I had no choice either, I had to succeed’ . The successful brother became CEO of a global business.

So, in summary, you can forget personality and therefore personality testing. Look instead for where the entrepreneur is on the path and then asking searching questions about how they dealt with uncertainty.

So, the good news is that there is evidence of there being a way to systematically identify likely successful entrepreneurs – and also the quality of the team – and your fellow investors – that surround the entrepreneur.

Good luck.

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