After years of working with business students and aspiring entrepreneurs, I've finally come to the startling realization that they all come from the same place: Oz.
Actually, it wasn't my idea. David Whitlark, a marketing professor at BYU, pointed it out to me. And he has me convinced. Entrepreneurs come in all shapes, sizes, colors and genders, but they are all basically one of five types.Some are like Dorothy, who cannot escape the call of "there's no place like home." Some are like the scarecrow, lacking confidence in their ability even though their ideas can be pretty good. Some are like the tin man, with a lot of heart but not enough sense to come in out of the rain. Some are like the lion - nervous and cautious, but ultimately, ferocious. And some are like the wizard - big and blustery hiding behind all of that fire and smoke, but actually pretty timid when you get a peek at the person behind the curtain.
From my experience, entrepreneurial Dorothys tend not to do very well in the business world. Although many of us are motivated to create and run our own businesses because we want to be free to spend more time with our families, you're probably going to struggle if you view your daily work as "just putting in time."
The scarecrows of the entrepreneurial world are easily discouraged. Even though their ideas are generally good, they back down when things get tough.
When someone tells them "it'll never work," they believe it rather than trusting their own good instincts. The most successful entrepreneurs are confident enough to hang in there even when the rest of the world is telling them to let it go.
Few scarecrows find entrepreneurial success because they are unable to consider the possibility that the rest of the world just might be wrong.
Conversely, entrepreneurial tin men (and women) will hang in there too long.
They have the determination. They have the confidence. They have the heart. They just don't have a clue. They may start out with a good idea, but they can't think "outside the box" far enough to carry it through to a successful conclusion. And so they find themselves out in the woods when the storm hits, and their dreams turn to rust because they didn't think to bring along an oil can.
Wizards are technical experts. They can master different roles, and they don't shy away from tough decisions. But they blanch at criticism and can be defensive when somebody sees weakness in their ideas and tries to improve the concept with an idea of their own.
This can make it difficult to build an effective team, or to uncover possibilities that bring down collaborative barriers and lead to lasting growth. Wizards can do wonderful things, but they can also create a whole new set of problems if they refuse to come out from behind the smoke and mirrors.
In David Whitlark's view, the best entrepreneurs are the lions. They may be reluctant to get into the game at first. But once there, they rarely quit until they find a way to win.
They are fiercely competitive. They are resilient. They are obsessed with finding what works and are willing to put aside their pride long enough to ask, listen and observe. They know how to put together a winning team. I believe these are the qualities that best lend themselves to becoming King of the Entrepreneurial Forest.
In Kansas, Oz or elsewhere.