What makes an entrepreneur?

My father had strokes years before he died. My mother has been a tireless worker for the New Zealand Stroke Foundation for many, many years. When Anita Roddick died of a stroke, reported as a brain hemorrhage I felt it was a form of Unspeak - denying the simple human truth. Yes she was young - but strokes are not the sole province of the elderly (my father was younger than Roddick when he had his first). It was, ironically, Stroke Awareness Week, but the opportunity to educate was lost by giving the cause of death a makeover - seemingly to flatter her memory (the promotional pictures are of a younger Dame Anita).

I was grumpy. But reading The Conversation Agent blog tonight I came across this list of attributes that Anita Roddick felt characterised entrepreneurs and felt relaxed. Very warm, very human. I'll refer to it often.

1. The vision of something new and belief in it that's so strong that it becomes a reality.

2. A touch of craziness.

3. The ability to stand out of the crowd because entrepreneurs act instinctively on what they see, think and feel. And remember there is always truth in reactions.

4. The ability to have ideas constantly bubbling and pushing up inside until they are forced out, like genies from the bottle, by the pressure of creative tension.

5. Pathological optimism.

6. A covert understanding that you don't have to know how to do something. Skill or money is not the answer for the entrepreneur, it is knowledge: from books, observing or asking.

7. Streetwise skills. Most entrepreneurs she met have had an innate desire for social change. They understand that business is not just financial science.

8. Creativity.

9. The ability to mix all these together effectively.

10. And finally, every entrepreneur is a great storyteller. It is storytelling that defines your differences.


  1. David:
    I was catching up on your blog and becoming familiar with Unspeak just this morning. I too believe that language can be a powerful ally in helping us articulate what we feel and move/inspire to action; at the same time I am conscious of how it can be manipulated and massaged to drive to a specific outcome.

    The difference, as you point out here, is humanity -- candor, awareness, willingness to enter the messiness of potential misunderstandings so we can mix it up with each other. My own mother used to say that there are people who get it, no matter how you say it... and others who will never get it, no matter how hard you try.

  2. Anonymous8:20 am

    David - IMHO "stroke" is an outdated and generic term for a number of things that come under the general heading of Cerebral Vascular Accident (CVA) - literally some disruption of the vasculature of the cerebrum. Brain hemorrhage is much more accurate than stroke which can include ischaemic, embolic or hemorrhagic causal factors.

    But that's just my opinion I guess

  3. Ben,

    I accept what you say. But there is a difference between being clinically correct and making a difference.

    Strokes (in all their permutations) affect thousands of New Zealanders every year. Because of misunderstanding about their cause and the impression that it is a disease that is only an issue for the elderly the opportunity for early prevention is lost.


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