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The entrepreneur and the enabler: Identifying entrepreneurs and the people who help them

by Corinne Colbert

October 2005

Every day, an incubator manager asks the same question: How can I help these companies succeed? Part of the answer lies not in the idea or the business plan, but in the individual. Two British researchers say they can help you identify which individuals have the greatest potential to succeed – and even tell you if you’re the right person to help.

John Thompson is the Roger M. Bale Professor of Entrepreneurship at the United Kingdom’s University of Huddersfield and director of its Enterprise Network, a research and outreach center devoted to entrepreneurship (which includes a business incubator). Since 1998, Thompson has been studying the entrepreneur phenomenon with entrepreneurship consultant Bill Bolton, founding director of St. John’s Innovation Centre, a business incubator at the University of Cambridge. Through their research, they developed the Bolton-Thompson Entrepreneur Indicator, a test to measure entrepreneurial potential based on the six character traits they say are the essence of the entrepreneur: Focus, Advantage, Creativity, Ego, Team and Social (or FACETS).

The indicator can be a valuable tool for incubator managers. Users answer a series of questions about their work habits and beliefs as quickly as possible, relying on gut reaction rather than introspection. The answers yield scores in each of the entrepreneur FACETS. “If you know the rough profile of the people you’ve got, you can get some insight into what help they need,” Thompson says.

The results also provide a score in another trait, Enabler – the ability to help entrepreneurs reach their full potential. In this regard, the test could help incubator managers hire and evaluate staff and assess possible service providers. And the indicator can be a personal reality check, a way to make sure you are playing to your own strengths by staffing your incubator with people who have complementary skills.

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Keywords: selection/admissions, entrance policy, research -- entrepreneurship

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