Business book review: Hearts, Smarts, Guts and Luck

31 Oct 2012 by BusinessTraveller
It’s something we all wonder about, and when reading profiles of enterpreneurs try to work out the answer from their biography - are entrepreneurs born or made? How do they do it? Business alchemy, making money from nothing must require some magic touch, but is it something in their personalities that makes them special, different from the rest of us, and can it be analysed, can it be learned? Well the authors here think it can certainly be analysed, and quite possibly learned, or at least refined if you have the right stuff. I’m not convinced that entrepreneurs read books like this, but I’m sure that people who dream of being entrepreneurs do, and I suppose if a few are encouraged as a result, then these books perform a useful social purpose. The concept behind this one is to ask “What's your entrepreneurial profile? Do you have what it takes to build a great business?” The authors – “three prominent business leaders and entrepreneurs - now venture capitalists and CEO advisers” who aim to “…share the qualities that surface again and again in those who successfully achieve their goals. The common traits? Heart, smarts, guts, and luck.” I don’t think there’s much to disagree with here, but it does rather beg the question of what else there could be. Height? Hand eye coordination? Excellence in sight reading at the piano? If you isolated four qualities that would make you a success in any walk of life those four would rank highly in different proportions, and here the authors aren’t even saying one is more important that the other, just that all ought to be present. So far, so obvious. The real meat, however, is recognising whether you have one of these qualities in buckets, but lack the others. If this is true (and most likely, it is), then analyse where you are deficient, and either try and reform your personality, or more usefully, employ people who make up their lack as part of your start-up team or expansion team once you are established. The authors have apparently interviewed and researched  “hundreds of business-builders across the globe” and “….every one of them-from young founder to seasoned CEO - holds a combination of these four attributes.” They even give examples of who fits where, asking the reader whether they are “(1) Heart-dominant, like renowned chef Alice Waters or Starbucks's Howard Schultz?, (2) Smarts-dominant, like Jeff Bezos of Amazon or legendary investor Warren Buffett?, (3) Guts-dominant, like Nelson Mandela or Virgin's Richard Branson?, (4) Or are you most defined by the luck trait, like Tony Hsieh of Zappos (and a surprisingly high proportion of other successful entrepreneurs)?” This is seductive stuff, deciding which one of these immensely successful entrpreneurs you most resemble, and it’s a great sell for the book. The authors have devised “the first Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test (E.A.T)” to help you determine your profile “… a simple tool to help determine your specific profile. Though no single archetype for entrepreneurial success exists, this book will help you understand which traits to "dial up" or "dial down" to realize your full potential, and when these traits are most and least helpful (or even detrimental) during critical points of a company lifecycle.” By now you will probably have decided whether the book is for you or not. There are a lot of interesting observations in here, and the books ends with an exhortation to “Go out there and do it!” If it encourages people to have a go at realising their dreams, while recognising some of their strengths and weaknesses, that’s worth celebrating. Visit hsgl.com for more information and to carry out the Entrpreneurial Aptitude Test. Tom Otley
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