While a Doctor of Business Administration student, I became frustrated during a class. My classmates were defining “entrepreneurs” broadly. I recall one classmate saying “I’ve been working with entrepreneurs for 25 years, they are all paranoid control freaks”. As an entrepreneur, I was a bit offended. But I was also curious. Was my classmate correct?
As any good doctoral student would, I researched the topic of entrepreneur personality deeply. I wrote a paper entitled “Psychographic Segmentation of the Self-Employed”. With the help of Dr. Art Weinstein (my professor and leading scholar in the field of market segmentation), we published the article in the New England Journal of Entrepreneurship.
Our research found entrepreneurs can be classified into groups. Some are altruists, others have parental relationships with their firms, some are exemplars with a talent for commerce, and some are motivated primarily by a need for control. At the very least, companies should not market to small business owners as one market. Rather, as a large market with multiple market segments.
Recently, Dr. Weinstein and I learned our article is among the most downloaded articles in the journal’s history. It’s been downloaded by thousands of people at leading companies and universities globally, and cited by numerous scholars.
My motive in writing the article was to prove education is the best cure for prejudice. Having influenced others to respect the differences between entrepreneurs, whether that influence occurs in a classroom of boardroom, is rewarding for a business educator.
However, as a lawyer there is a different benefit: Better understand entrepreneurs. An attorney who understands a client’s motives is better positioned to help the client succeed. Not every entrepreneur wants a huge business, or to build a global empire. Some just want to make a difference in their communities. Some want a lifestyle business that serves their desires, not a business that consumes their lives. That’s why I start discussions with new entrepreneurs with a simple question “What do you want from this business?” Once that question is answered, it is easier to choose the best legal structure moving forward.