Entrepreneurs have long been fascinated by understanding the defining traits of great entrepreneurs and business builders. Four qualities that successful entrepreneurship and business require are Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck. Every founder, entrepreneur, or business-builder should possess every one of these four characteristics, though the recipe, or relative mix, of these traits varies from person to person.
No single archetype for entrepreneurial success exists, but figuring out which trait drives you can foster an awareness of how and when you might need to "turn up" or "turn down" the volume, so to speak, of the other traits. In this post, I talk about the Heart-dominant entrepreneur and how their passionate character translates in a business setting.
Heart-dominant individuals bring purpose, passion, and hunger to the business world. Founders, iconoclasts, and visionaries, they show up with a three-act narrative bursting from their heads. Their inspiration could be technology, hamburgers, rental cars, biotech, or a new take on social networking - it doesn't matter. More key is that these people are consumed by a driving desire to translate their passion and mission into reality.
Like most, we use the word heart metaphorically: to describe a quality marked by excitement, fervor, obsession, contagiousness, purpose, hard work and sacrifice. In business, we sometimes label heart-dominant personalities "iconoclastic" or "visionary" only after they've succeeded (before that, we may see them as alternately crazy, stubborn, pushy, eccentric, naïve, or overly idealistic).
We know at once when we're sitting across from a Heart-dominant individual. Her passion for her idea is infectious, whether it's her desire to get her idée fixe just right, or her voracious push to translate what she sees in her heart into words, and from there into a business that might just transform the world. Her approach may not always come across as rational. It may not be research-based. She may lack a conventional business plan. Tell her that her idea is crazy, poorly timed, or impossible, and she'll shrug, or counter with all the reasons it will work. What matters to her is her vision, and her hunger to see it through.
Chef Ferran Adrià of El Bulli, a Catalan restaurant renowned globally for its imaginative cuisine, and Chez Panisse's Alice Waters, a fierce advocate of fresh, sustainable ingredients, are two examples in the culinary world of Heart-dominant visionaries. Both aren't merely chefs, they're individuals committed to creating profound culinary movements. Their mission is to live their passion, share it with others, and leave a mark on the restaurant and food industry at large.
Indeed, Heart-dominant individuals are not only creators, they're evangelists. They have a deep- seated need to alter the universe in order to create meaningful change. Their satisfaction and self-worth derive from attaining a goal for its own sake. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, for instance, is likely driven as much by achieving personal excellence as he is by selling out concert halls around the world. Touring the globe with his own Silk Road Ensemble, he has mastered one demanding repertoire after another, from Baroque to bluegrass to Argentinian tango to ancient Chinese melodies, reflecting his goal of showcasing musicians and traditional music from around the world.
Once we begin looking, the Heart-dominant individual shows up everywhere. The 2008 documentary Man on a Wire portrayed French aerialist Philippe Petit, a man driven by the need to conquer seemingly impossible feats - in this case, the 140-foot-long distance running between New York's former World Trade Center twin towers. After months of planning, on August 7th, 1974, Petit stepped out onto the wire and slowly began making his way back and forth from one tower to the next, 1450 feet above the sidewalk. It is an incredible documentary leaving one wondering throughout the movie - Can this be true? And it is, it is!
Or consider the accordionist and street performer, Guy Laliberté who, as the founder of Cirque du Soleil, redefined the very meaning of "circus." Today Cirque du Soleil boasts revenues of over $600M. Or Doris Christopher, a home-economics teacher and mother, who believed that every household should have professional-grade kitchen tools, and who created a contemporary "Tupperware" organization of independent sales consultants bound together by a love of cooking. As the founder of the Pampered Chef, a business dedicated to enhancing the quality of family life, Dorris's purpose-driven mission statement may veer from the language of more traditional left-brain business types, but in 2002, the Pampered Chef's yearly sales hit $700 million, and Berkshire Hathaway acquired the business.
The all-consuming, purposeful devotion of Heart-driven people - which always involves some degree of personal sacrifice - ignites the most infectious pitches in the world of venture capital (it is hard not be enthralled by someone else's genuine interest and commitment to a cause).If you find yourself transfixed by someone who is talking about an idea in which you originally had no interest, but whose delivery and passion are hypnotizing, chances are you're in the presence of a Heart-dominant individual. Few truly successful businesses start out without one at their helm. Good ideas come from all types of people, but the heart represents the richest soil that gives those initial ideas their roots. No, Heart alone isn't enough to accomplish great business building, but it is a large part of what often makes a company special.