By John Solari
The pathways to successful entrepreneurship are unpredictable. But one constant commonality, even above education or experience, is drive. Successful entrepreneurs from all backgrounds share a relentless tenacity that is perhaps the best predictor of success.
This is the magic of entrepreneurship. In a world of wild technological advancements and Ivy League degrees, hard work still wins.
Perhaps that is why we see so many successful entrepreneurs take unconventional paths to success — because determination and grit are not things you acquire in a classroom. And intangibles like relationship-building and problem-solving are hugely important in an arena where you need to think creatively and perform a wide array of tasks.
This is not to say that entrepreneurial education is not important. In fact, it is one of the most predictable indicators of success. But, as the bios of many successful entrepreneurs and business leaders show us, the completion of education is only the beginning of the hard work of entrepreneurship.
Take Richard Branson, who dropped out of school at age 16 before becoming a serial entrepreneur and billionaire. Or Michael Eisner, who got a degree in literature and theater before trying to write plays in Paris for a living. He eventually switched career paths and became the legendary CEO of Disney, infusing the mature company with an entrepreneurial energy that reinvigorated the company’s animation and theme parks divisions. Or Carly Fiorina, who received her degree in medieval history and philosophy before becoming the CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
Think about these career paths and then consider why the entrepreneurial journey is so hard to re-create in an educational setting or a predetermined set of experiences. Most people certainly would never counsel an aspiring entrepreneur to drop out of school at 16 or choose medieval history as a major. But those sets of experiences, paired with a powerful entrepreneurial drive, have created some of the great business success stories.
Entrepreneurship is an unpredictable endeavor. Don’t discount traditional pathways to success. Business schools are injecting more real-world entrepreneurial experience in their curricula. This is all to the benefit of students, who are gaining invaluable experience in all aspects of entrepreneurship.
Many future entrepreneurs will come from the ranks of the nation’s top business colleges, MBA programs and entrepreneurship incubators, as they have for generations. But many will also arrive at success through unconventional and meandering courses. They might launch a company out of their garage or dorm room. They might come from blue-collar backgrounds or a liberal arts education.
But they will all have one personality trait in common. They will have persistence. Because in the wild world of business, there is no substitute for entrepreneurial drive. Remember that when you launch into the inspiring and daunting world of entrepreneurship. No degree or pedigree will guarantee success. You have to go out and earn it every day.
John Solari is the managing partner of J.A. Solari & Partners. He has 25 years of accounting experience and is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Nevada Society of Certified Public Accountants.