Blog: Diane Durance

And the winner is... Diane Durance, executive director of Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest, is here this week to discuss the GLEQ business plan competition for aspiring entrepreneurs. In June, one start-up will win the $100K SmartZone award. In a time when there's talk of taking the nickel out of nickels, a few Gs can mean the difference between boom or bust.

Post 2: Do You Have 'The Right Stuff' for Entrepreneurship? You'd Be Surprised

Do you harbor doubts about whether you have 'The Right Stuff' to be an entrepreneur? If you've read some of the popular books on the subject or maybe taken a few profile tests to see if you have an entrepreneurial personality, you could be wondering.  

Let me put your fears to rest. You DO have The Right Stuff.

Here's how I know. I've been watching people of all ages, backgrounds, and personality types launching new ventures for three decades. I've even started three myself with very different types of partners.  I'm meeting and working with hundreds of people all over Michigan that are starting businesses right now. I can tell you that there's no single personality trait they all share. They come from diverse backgrounds and are exploring opportunities in every imaginable field. They're students and retirees. They're high school graduates and Ph.D.s and M.Ds.  They're on farms and in downtown Detroit (soon to be on farms in downtown Detroit).

When I was in business school 30 years ago, the oft quoted statistic was that if you didn't start a business by the time you were 28, you never would. Bunk! Your father had to have started a business (not many moms did back then) for you to have the best chance of being a successful. Baloney! You had to be an extrovert. A visionary. Maniacally single-minded and driven by demons to succeed. Nonsense!

The reality is entrepreneurship is a very common vocation, with 11% of U.S. households owning a business and 13% of people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 74 currently in the process of starting a business. According to recent surveys, 70% of high school seniors are planning to start a business. 50% of college students believe it's a smarter career choice than getting a job. Every year, more people are starting businesses than getting married or having children. 40% of us will be self-employed at some point!

Who are all these entrepreneurs? Scott A. Shane, author of The Illusions of Entrepreneurship - The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By, draws on the data from extensive research to provide an accurate assessment about who becomes an entrepreneur and why, and which factors lead to success. I urge you to read his enlightening book, but here are some points that caught my attention:

    •  People are more likely to start companies in poorer and more agricultural places than in places that are richer and more reliant on manufacturing.
    •  People in places with high rates of unemployment are more likely to start businesses than people in places with low rates of unemployment. (Good news for Michigan!)
    •  Most new businesses are not started in glitzy, high-tech industries but rather in pretty mundane, run-of-the-mill industries.
    •  The most typical entrepreneur isn't a Silicon Valley-type, but rather a regular guy, married and in his forties, who started his business because he didn't want to work for someone else.
    •  Psychological factors account for very little of the difference between entrepreneurs and other people.

    •  The characteristics that make people more likely to start businesses aren't all desirable; people are more likely to go into business for themselves if they are unemployed, work part-time, have changed jobs often, and make less money.

    •  Entrepreneurship is not a young person's game; middle-aged people are more likely than anyone else to be entrepreneurs.
    •  Education doesn't hinder entrepreneurship; getting an education makes people more likely to start businesses.
    •  Studying business isn't that important to becoming an entrepreneur: studying things that correspond to occupations in which a lot of people run their own businesses is just as likely to increase a person's chances of starting a business.
    •  Working for someone else increases the chances that a person will start his own business.
So next time you're introducing  yourself as a newly minted entrepreneur, stop  imagining your listener mentally comparing you to Bill Gates, Larry Page, or  Michael Dell -- and dismissing you as a wannabe. Extend your hand, smile confidently, and know that it's not the rare few that succeed -- it is and will be many of us.

Tomorrow: The Road Map to Michigan Resources