Developing the Mindset of Entrepreneurs


Many do not think of being entrepreneurs even when starting and owning a business appeal to many individuals. This article begins with a proper definition and mindset as put forth by different scholars. This is followed by a detailed analysis of their characteristics.

Closely following this is a discussion on the steps to develop such mindset. This is explored with vivid use of examples. This research article ends with a section that summarizes the main points.

Definition of Entrepreneur

This can be defined as the process where one thinks creatively to identify an opportunity, allocates resources, and creates value while taking constructive risk to deliver on the identified idea(s)
(Hall 2001, pp. 18-20; Watson 2010).

This definition highlights the need to look at a problem as an opportunity to take action in identifying possible ways of solving the problem not necessarily for monetary sake but to create a difference in people’s lives.

However, money often follows the hard work (Hall 2001, p. 18; Moltz 2003).

Definition of Mindset

Mindset is a persons’ mental attitude or disposition that predetermines ones reaction to situations ( 2011).

Hence, entrepreneurs are creative thinkers, and in fostering innovative mindset, Kuczmarski (1996, p. 7) posits that one should have self-commitment, meaning that only when one feels a responsibility or pledges to deliver on the creative ideas by believing in his/her idea(s), after careful consideration of the benefits of the new idea, only then can the idea be communicated to others and put to good use.

Thus, one has to develop the ability to self-inspire oneself. The passion to deliver on their ideas should be there (Moltz 2003, pp. 12-18).

This is in line with ten characteristics outlined by Thornberry (2006) as necessary in developing entrepreneurial mindset.

There are other valuable qualities or characteristics required as put forth by different scholars but this article will only discuss that set forth by Thornberry (2006) which includes:

(1) Internal locus of control, (2) Tolerance for ambiguity, (3) Willingness to hire people smarter than oneself, (4) A consistent drive to create, built, or change things, (5) A passion for an opportunity, (6) A sense of urgency, (7) Perseverance, (8) Resilience, (9) Optimism, (10) Sense of humour about oneself.

Details of these are given below.

Internal locus of control- This has to do with a person’s perception of control or responsibility in his own life.

Although the external world has some level of influence on us, Thornberry (2006) argues that most successful entrepreneur have strong internal locus of control, that is, they are more in charge or control of their life rather than being controlled.

Tolerance for ambiguity- Entrepreneurs are creative thinkers, and risk takers and the odds of success of the risk they take can be unknown at the time they embark on such activity hence, the uncertainty is ambiguous (Rigotti, Ryan & Vaithianathan 2008, pp. 1, 19).

Interestingly, Owen and Sweeney (2002) argue that because ambiguity exists, humans cope with it and display varying levels of tolerance or intolerance, ambiguous situations.

This has to do with patience and tolerance, thus view each mistake as an opportunity to explore. Therefore, to tolerate ambiguity is what marks out the required personality (Rigotti, Ryan & Vaithianathan 2008).

Willingness to hire people smarter than oneself- Be inclined to hire people who are more knowledgeable in different fields of your business than you are, such professionals will bring good ideas to the business, while this sounds like common sense, many business owners are often frightened to have employees who know more than them (Thornberry 2006).

Thornberry cited the example of Ray Kroc whose first model for McDonald was to have only company-owned stores so as to be able to control quality, image and operations of the stores.

Until Ray Kroc hired a CFO who was an expert in franchising, the CFO convinced Ray to have both company-owned store and large franchise, Ray agreeing to the idea of franchise led to McDonald being an icon in the fast food industry.

Had Ray Kroc not hired someone smarter than himself, probably MacDonald would not have been this successful (Thornberry 2006).

While Thornberry’s point to ‘hire people smarter than yourself’ is valid, caution should be exercised applying this at the business start-up. From the example of MacDonald given above, MacDonald had already been in existence for some time before the CFO who was an expert in franchise was hired.

Caution should be exercise about such decision especially during business start-up as this can lead to business hijack. A good example of this is the case of Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook and the Winklevoss twins who claimed Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea for Facebook.

Though Zuckerberg has been made to pay heavily for his actions, the struggle between the Winklevoss brothers and Zuckerberg is still a continuous one. What is more, the Winklevoss’ brothers can never own that business anymore, a great lesson for all entrepreneurs (Thomas 2007; Ciminelli 2011).

A consistent drive to create, built, or change things- Next on Thornberry’s list of characteristics is a consistent drive to create, built, or change things.

They often have the drive to create something that reflects the individual and his potential legacy not necessarily for money, but if the idea works well then money follows. Notice that they need not create ideas from scratch at all times, but they are innovative thinkers that change things to work (Lesonsky 2001; Thornberry 2006).

A passion for Opportunity - Moreover, a passion for opportunity is very much required. Passion is a strong emotional feeling about a person or thing.

Thus, they must develop such emotional feelings about their ideas, it is easier said than done especially for those who are trained on ideas that are not originally their own,however, looking for professional advice, listening and learning from others can help (Moltz 2003, pp. 22-3; Thornberry 2006).

Sense of Urgency - Furthermore, another important need is a sense of urgency. A true sense of urgency is driven by a deep determination to win born out of pressing importance, not the anxiety of losing and this entails everyday progress not only meeting datelines (Kotter 2008, pp. 6-7).

Perseverance – Success needs persistence and determination. They often persist on specific ideas they are passionate about (Moltz 2003), and ensure they do everything possible to make it work
(Thornberry 2006; Davenport & Harris 2010, p. 32).

There are very few overnight successes, so have a plan, stick to it and work hard to make it work (Lesonsky 2001, p. 44).

Resilience- Resilience has to do with positive capability of coping with stress and adversity and then bounces back to function effectively. Usually, resilience emphasizes strengths over problems as business environment is not immune to problems.

Hence, it is important for entrepreneurs to be resilient than ever before (Toomey, Brennan & Friesen n.d. p. 1). Some fail at the first attempt to sell their ideas, this can be expected and is part of business as it can be difficult to score a goal without getting a scar
(Moltz 2003, p. 24), but the problem comes when one does not learn from his previous mistakes.

Thus, there are always learnings from mistakes made and a working hard to ensure the mistake does not repeat itself. Some learn from the mistakes and successes of others and avoid learning from personal experience as this can be costly and irrecoverable (Lesonsky 2001, p. 58; Moltz 2003; Thornberry 2006).

Optimism- Optimism in itself cannot provide result, it is only a tool to help individual achieve the goal he has set in his life. Positive attitude in itself is not enough, it should be supported with meaningful, realistic goals,actions and commitment to deliver on the set goals. Only then can success be ensured (Paulson 2010,p. 40).

Sense of humour about oneself- Developing a sense of humour is the ability to perceive people, situations, the world around you with wit- the ability to amuse and perceive what is amusing (Keefe 2003, p.166).

Thornberry (2006) argued that if a business man take themselves too seriously, there is a possibility of them not recovering well emotionally from their missteps.

Hence, there is need to have some sense of humour, laugh about your mistakes and move on with your business, it shows you are not immune to world’s problems, and a good sense of humour give you a more human face.

Steps to develop the required Mindset

  • Identify the problem

  • Identify opportunity in a problem

  • Develop solution to the problem

  • Implement the solution

Developing this mindset first begins by being able to identify a problem. The problem can be in an existing business or an untapped or new business environment.

After which try to identify an opportunity in a problem, and then develop a solution to the problem without necessarily taking undue advantage of others and implement the solution. A good way to explain this will be through the use of examples.

The example used in this article is adopted from Hall (2001, p. 19) where Hall used Rabbits in his example but cats would be used to illustrate our point. If one neighbor has three cats and another neighbor has two cats and they each wants to have four cats.

Ordinarily, one will think someone is going to end up with four cats while the other neighbor ends up with one. Conversely, an entrepreneurial approach to the cat situation might mean a quick check among the two neighbors who has male versus female cats.

Then negotiating the possibility to mate one neighbor’s female cat with another neighbor’s male cat, this could possibly mean additional baby cats for everyone without one robbing the other to have more
(Hall 2001, pp. 19-20).

Explaining the steps - Firstly, look from a business stand point to identify the problem. The problem from the above example is that each neighbor wanted four cats.

Secondly, identifying an opportunity in a problem. The opportunity was a quick check to ascertain male versus female cats and developing a process for acquiring the four desired number of cats by each neighbor. In the business world, this will be the equivalent of developing a new solution or process to a problem. Subsequently, developing solution to the problem was to negotiate possibility of mating one neighbor’s female cat with another neighbor’s male cat.

Then implementing the solution calls for bringing the agreed male and female cat together to meet so as to produce more baby cats for the two neighbors.

The above example shows the need for creative and expansionary thinking that makes for the advantage of all involved rather than a one off opportunity to prey on the seemingly vulnerable party, think of a solution that makes for a win-win relationship, fair in their dealings with their business partner, honest and trust worthy. These are the important attributes required to succeed (Hall 2001, pp. 19-20).


The article outlined ten valuable characteristics expected of creative businessmen.

Based on the definition of mindset given in this article as a person’s mental attitude that predetermine ones reaction to a situation, developing the mindset of an entrepreneur will mean following the steps outlined above and integrating it with the characteristics mentioned earlier.

Moreover, creative thinking is important in identifying solution to problems we face or opportunities we encounter, and the implementation of such solution for the benefit of all not necessarily for monetary benefits.

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Hall, C (2001), Responsible Entrepreneur: How to Make Money and Make a Difference, Career Press Incorporated, USA.

Kuczmarski, T., D (1996) "Fostering an innovation mindset", Journal of Consumer Marketing, MCB UNIVERSITY PRESS, Vol.13, NO. 6, pp. 7-13.

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Paulson, TL 2010, The Optimism Advantage 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Actions into Results, John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey.

Rigotti, L, Ryan, M & Vaithianathan, R 2008, Tolerance of Ambiguity and Entrepreneurial Innovation, (Accessed 14th June 2011).

Toomey, A, Brennan, EM & Friesen, B n.d., Resilience Theory as Framework for Teaching Human Development within HBSE, (Accessed 13th June 2011).

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Watson, G 2011, Entrepreneurship, Education, and Ethics, (Accessed 10th June 2011).


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