You see things as they are, and you ask, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were, and ask, "Why not?" (George Bernard Shaw)


In 1989, I initiated ECI[1], a training and consulting business, and ran it for 27 years. In the first 5 years, the company had a dedicated focus on developing male and female micro and small entrepreneurs. As a woman entrepreneur myself, I had the opportunity to walk the entrepreneur pathway, as well as look closely at the many thousands of entrepreneurs that were supported through the implemented programs. Today, when I think about ‘what is an entrepreneur’, I draw my views from a personal review of my own self, and my observations of entrepreneurs that I closely worked with. To me an entrepreneur is a person with a special attitude and mindset. These individuals have an uncanny ability to not only dream the future, but to use passionate, dynamic energy to achieve the same. Entrepreneurs can remain in a ‘state of grayness’ for considerable periods of time, and are completely at home in situations where they can only influence, without direct control. Like magicians, effective entrepreneurs have the ability to create something out of nothing.


Over the years, an important learning has been that not every individual that runs a business is an entrepreneur. Just as I have found there are some incredible entrepreneurs in public service, government jobs, or working with Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Given this, I distinguish entrepreneurs from ‘non-entrepreneurs’ by checking them out for ‘personal entrepreneurial competencies (PECs)’.


In one of my earliest training for entrepreneurship development from the Management Systems International (MSI), USA, I learned that entrepreneurs have competencies under three clusters, i.e. achievement, planning and power. The entrepreneur’s every journey begins with a burning need to achieve, and is followed by a passionate determination to ‘make things happen’. As my work in entrepreneurship development deepened, I realized how critical the achievement cluster was. The entrepreneurs’ key to their destination lies within, therefore they have the ability to take initiative and action without external prompting. In situations where others see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunities. And through a constant process of obtaining information, entrepreneurs calculate risks so that they can take informed decisions.


Entrepreneurs also develop important competencies under the planning cluster, e.g. establishing goals that are neither too easy nor too hard, but challenging enough to keep the momentum going! They do not fear hard work, and have a constant urge to innovate, i.e. to do things better, cheaper and faster. They are also very persistent in the face of opposition or problems, and are sometimes labeled as stubborn.


Finally, under the power cluster, entrepreneurs hone their ability to persuade and network. They develop personal power that exudes as self-confidence. And they deliver as per commitment to a work contract, regardless of the sacrifices they have to make to do so. 


Have I made the ‘entrepreneur’ sound very romantic? I am sure I have. But it has been a life long journey, and I have been in love with entrepreneurs forever! Can entrepreneurs be developed? I would say yes – if the basic DNA exists. And in my training, I often point out the importance of developing the PECs so that they can balance each other, for it would be disastrous for an entrepreneur to have too much initiative, and not enough informed goal setting; or to have skills to persuade and network, but not enough ability to plan or commit to a work contract.


[1] ECI – Empowerment thru Creative Integration, based in Islamabad, Pakistan