One of the great joys of being an entrepreneur is that you
really do stand or fall on your own merits.
There is no stupid boss to get in your way – or to blame if
things go wrong. The high school drop-out is on the same playing field as the
Ivy League PhD.
That said, as with any playing field, there are certain
natural advantages that do give an edge if you can bring them to the game. They
are not necessarily decisive, but they do help.
Looking at Fortune’s
“40 Under 40” – an arbitrary list,
like all these things, but an interesting point to start a discussion – you do
notice certain patterns.
It helps to have rich parents. Even if you never actually draw on the Bank of
Mum and Dad, or follow them into the family business, being brought up with
successful entrepreneurs as role models gives definite advantages in terms of
contacts, basic business skills, self-confidence and, possibly most important
of all, advantageous genes.
2 Education. A good university is more
important than a good degree. If you are going to be a drop-out, it is no bad
thing to be a Harvard drop-out. It shows that your dropping out is not the sad
fate of an unintelligent person who has failed in the education system but the
positive decision of an intelligent person who has been failed by the education
3 Appearance. Man or woman, it is a definite advantage if
you are considered “good looking”. Race and gender have always been less
important in enterprise, but ugliness remains the great unspoken prejudice.
4 Private life. A stable home life is a
firm foundation. Most of the high flyers on the Fortune list are married, despite their relative youth. There is no
evidence to support the macho notion that the man whose restless energy takes
him from girlfriend to girlfriend will apply that same energy to business: on
the contrary, a disordered personal life may prove a major distraction. The
people who reach the very top, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, are often
very dull and boring in their personal lives.
However, there is not need to worry if none of these apply
to you. Once you are in the game, initial advantages or disadvantages soon
cease to matter. All depends on how you play. A list of “50 Over 50” or “60
Over 60” would be far more diverse.