How to Spot a Future Entrepreneur
There may be a better way than charting your child’s lemonade stand profits to know whether you’ve got a future entrepreneur on your hands. Much like predictors used to study diseases--diet, family history, or drug use, for example--researchers have begun to identify early-life predictors for entrepreneurship.
In a study published in the journal Developmental Psychology, Ingrid Schoon and Kathryn Duckworth, post-docs from the University of London, looked at 6,000 employed adults from the 1970 British Cohort Study, which had followed a group of people born in the same week in 1970 from childhood to adulthood.
The authors examined responses from ages 10 and 16, looking at predictors like socioeconomic status, paternal employment, academics, social skills, self-efficacy, and entrepreneurial intention (how important it was to "work for oneself"). Then they contacted the study participants, now 34 years old, to find out where life had taken them in terms of employment and success.
What Schoon and Duckworth found was that by age 10, future entrepreneurs were already exhibiting specific traits--and they weren’t all the ones you might expect.
Grades Don’t Matter: Good grades didn't generate the entrepreneurs. Individuals with lower school scores often ended up having higher entrepreneurial intention or self-employment than the top students, possibly because they weren’t as focused on class rank or report cards.
Social Skills Matter: Ten-year-olds who were extroverted, bold, or otherwise social saw those skills carry through, ultimately faring better in self-employment.
Self-Efficacy Doesn't Matter: Surprisingly, children's self-efficacy, or belief in their own ability to perform tasks, had no effect on their early business intentions or later job experiences. The researchers do note, however, that because self-efficacy was tested while the participants were young and in school, it may not relate to the demands of creating a business.
Money Matters: Individuals from wealthier families frequently became self-employed, most likely because they could afford to. These children also had higher levels of academic achievement, self-efficacy, and social skills.
Gender Matters ... Sort Of: Of the 6,000 people studied, one in every five entrepreneurs was female. In reviewing the data, the researchers found gender-specific tendencies in the predictors. For men, becoming an entrepreneur was made more likely by having a self-employed father; for women, it was tied to their parents' resources.
So will building up your bank account or starting a business influence your child to become an entrepreneur? There's no guarantee. But knowing predictors may make it easier for parents and teachers to encourage budding CEOs from a young age--and maybe even to go easier on them if their grades slip.