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What Personality Traits Make Up an Educated Entrepreneur?

March 27, 2020

Have you ever wondered what makes entrepreneurs entrepreneurs? How can they seemingly and metaphorically throw themselves off cliffs to take risks with new and exciting business ventures without knowing if they have a parachute or not? A study and research paper conducted and written by Idaho State University College of Business professors Dr. Neil Tocher, Dr. Greg Murphy, and Dr. Tyler Burch explores this topic further. This paper is titled We Don’t Need No Education: Moderators of the Startup Intent Entrepreneurial Education Link.

The study examined the correlation between certain personality traits and what they call the ‘startup intent’ and ‘entrepreneurial education’ relationship to determine how personality traits can influence a person’s startup intent and whether or not they pursue a formal education in business prior to starting their business venture. 

Burch, one of the writers and executors of the survey, says “We wanted to understand the disconnect between starting a business and an unwillingness to take entrepreneurial education.” “Understanding who might be interested in entrepreneurial education would help programs recruit those folks, train them and send them out into the world to start businesses which have a far higher chance of succeeding than businesses started by someone with no business/entrepreneurial training,” Tocher added. Their paper, which surveyed 199 people from 18 years and older also noted that there is a lack of research in looking at people who possess both high startup intent and entrepreneurial education intentions- which is why they chose to look at this particular relationship. 

The results of the study showed that overall,  those who view education favorably and really want to startup their business are more likely to pursue education in entrepreneurship. And, while some may have a strong intent to startup their business, if they lack confidence in their abilities to succeed, they are more likely to take risks, they are more extroverted, or are more agreeable and open to experiences- then they are less likely to pursue business education prior to starting their business.

Burch said the most surprising result to him was that people who are open to experience were actually less likely to pursue a higher education. “We can imagine that those who are open would be open to trying new things [like an education in entrepreneurship]. But with education, they don’t value the recognition component that it gives them. They could be thinking that they’lI value the experience more rather than the education. They're open to trying new things including a business but not willing to take the time to do higher education,” he says. 

Tocher noted what surprised him the most was “We thought that most factors that predict entrepreneurial education intentions would also predict startup intentions. Instead it turns out that several factors predict entrepreneurial education intentions regardless of one’s intention to start a business. Specifically, extroverted individuals, individuals that are open to new experiences, and individuals who strongly value education were likely to seek entrepreneurial education regardless of their desire to start a firm.”  

A study like this can help you understand your own motivations and where you might fall on the scale in terms of if you are more likely to pursue a higher education in business. Are you someone who likes to try new things? Are you more extroverted and like to put yourself out there? Education can still offer you unique opportunities that satisfy these cravings you might have while providing you with tools that will help you be more successful in your own ventures. 

“Even if individuals who receive entrepreneurial education do not start businesses, those employees will learn how to recognize and exploit opportunities, which will lead them to be entrepreneurial in whatever role they decide to pursue in life,” said Tocher. In fact, studies consistently backup thatentrepreneurs who possess entrepreneurial education are more likely to start successful firms, create new jobs and invent novel market offerings than entrepreneurs who lack entrepreneurial education (Rauch & Hulsink, 2015). This is simply because college gives you better tools and a more expanded skillset. 

If programs recruit and train these individuals with high entrepreneurial education intentions and no plans to start a business, the entrepreneurial education program experience will likely increase their interest in starting businesses, leading to entrepreneurial activity that would not likely otherwise have taken place,” Tocher added.

This study can also help business universities and other entities decide how to best market their programs to different kinds of people. It helps decide what kind of events to offer in addition to the actual program. For example, the College of Business has a pitch-off every year where students pitch their business ideas to professionals. They also have several graduate students participating annually in the International Collegiate Business Strategy Competition where they run a simulated business as high-level executives, as well as many other events and hands-on experiences designed to help business students develop and polish their skills.

If you’d like more information on this paper, please contact Dr. Tocher (tochneil@isu.edu) Dr. Burch (burctyle@isu.edu) or Dr. Murphy (murpgreg@isu.edu). For more information about our programs, please contact Tara Smith at ridgtara@isu.edu.