Safety consultants often dream about becoming self-employed consultants. Some wish to develop a business on a part-time basis or retire and do a little consulting on the side. Often the fear of taking a risk and the economic uncertainties involved keep safety professionals in the traditional role. But entrepreneurship is an exciting career path for safety professionals and many aspects of running a business can be learned. One key is whether or not the individual has the personality traits that have been shown to be successful for entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship can involve any type or size of business, and is often defined as starting or creating a business enterprise. This paper will focus on the personality traits that have been found in successful small business owners and consultants, an overview of the concept of entrepreneurship, and some of the current research on the traits of small business entrepreneurs. No one person will possess all of the traits needed to be an entrepreneur but those traits that are most important to success will be stressed. The individual may compare his or her own traits to those traits presented. In addition to the traits, a business owner will have to address the management and technical skills needed for business such as project management, operations management, financial management, personnel management, marketing and sales, and legal. These areas will need to be addressed by the business whether or not the owner completes them.
Maravilla (2000) defined a profile of an entrepreneur based on analysis of the Consumer Population Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2000, there were approximately 12.8 million self-employed people in the US. These individuals were typically males (65.6 %) and white (90%), with 73.8 % married, 12.5 % never been married, and 9.5 % divorced. The age group is broad, ranging from age 25 to 59 years for 81.9 % of the sample. The majority of entrepreneurs (65.6%) work full time in their businesses and only 13.7 % work for their businesses part-time.
Bhide (2000) in his study of Inc. 500 companies found that successful entrepreneurs have an ability to cope with ambiguity, and that other would-be entrepreneurs do not. He defines ambiguity as known-to-be missing information. Interestingly, Bhide found that entrepreneurs with a high tolerance for ambiguity need not have a high tolerance for risk. Often the perception of safety professionals who work for companies is that entrepreneurship is very high risk. The fact is that consulting in this author's view, is not inherently risky but it is venturing into unknown territory for most of us. According to Bhide, entrepreneurs with high tolerance for ambiguity often succeed due to very high self-confidence and a feeling that they can deal with whatever cards they are dealt. Self confidence and an ability to cope with ambiguity are then key personality traits for starting a business, not necessarily a high tolerance for risk.