The Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test

By Matthew E. May, special to Overdrive.

Do you have what it takes to become the next Howard Schultz or Mark Zuckerberg? A new book may not only help you answer that question, but also surprise you with new-found self-awareness.

Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck: What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur and Build a Great Business is the work of a trio of accomplished entrepreneurs and advisors-turned-venture capitalists. Tony Tjan, Dick Harrington and Tsun-yan Hseih interviewed hundreds of executives and business builders across the globe, including Google cofounder Sergey Brin and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Among the many insights they discovered is that having a high degree of self-awareness may be the best marker of a successful entrepreneur, even more so than having a high IQ. Self-aware entrepreneurs, and successful people in general, tend to know exactly what drives them, and have the flexibility to shift gears.

Four Attributes

Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck can help you get that self-awareness by assessing your own attributes using what the authors call the Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test (EAT). The test is a psychological survey which identifies which of four key traits are dominant for you: heart, smarts, guts or luck.

A heart-dominant person kicks things off with passion and fire. She conjures up a great idea, a venture’s seed or bulb, and will simply believe that the right things will happen and the bulb will grow. Chez Panisse chef, Alice Waters, and Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, are good examples of a heart-dominant entrepreneur.

The smarts-dominant individual is best suited to seeing patterns faster than anyone else and providing structure, analysis and an actionable plan. Smarts-dominant individuals can be highly successful business-builders. eBay’s former chief, Meg Whitman, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos are both good examples.

Guts-dominant entrepreneurs love to initiate and try something new. They have the guts to endure, and the guts to evolve. Nelson Mandela and Virgin Airlines CEO, Richard Branson, embody this trait.

Luck appears to be chaotic and unpredictable. Most entrepreneurs benefit from luck at one time or another time in their careers. The authors argue we can influence our how lucky we are by being optimistic, intellectually curious, and by being humble like Laurel Touby, founder of Media Bistro.

Test Yourself

You can take the E.A.T. test at (Disclosure: The test revealed me to be of the smarts persuasion. I was really hoping luck might show up, but no such, er,luck.)

Once you know your dominant trait, you’ll learn how your profile may impact your business during its critical milestones from nurturing the first seeds of growth, to scaling it, to shifting strategy, to selling it. At these turning points, you’ll know which traits you should “dial up” or “dial down” and what kind of people you may need beside you.

Business Archetypes and Iconoclasts

The authors also identify three key business archetypes: the Founder, the Scaler and the Extender (they are not necessarily three different people) that correlate to the stages of a company’s growth cycle.

Founders are typically heart-dominant, most commonly with a secondary trait of either guts or luck. Founders play a critical role at the beginning of the growth curve, where vision formation, team building and cultural evangelism matter most.

Scalers often embody a smarts-guts profile, and are typically a growth-oriented business builder. She has to understand what core elements of a founder’s culture to preserve and what elements she can trade off for the purposes of scale.

Extenders are strong in the heart trait, with the pattern-recognition talents of a smarts-dominant type. They constantly ask: What business is the company really in?

And then there are the Iconoclasts: An extreme (and rare) breed of game-changers and rule-breakers with an uncanny sense of purpose and strength across the HSGL spectrum. With a reach that goes beyond their own business and industry, they profoundly affect present-day and future cultures and leave behind a historical fingerprint through their creations and leadership.

What I found most appealing about the book is that it showed me where I need to improve and when I’ll need help. Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck will identify the right path for any entrepreneur—from those in the early stages of a startup, to veterans scaling an established business.

Matthew E. May is the founder of EDIT Innovation, an ideas agency that helps simplify products, services, and process. Matt’s new book, The Laws of Subtractionwill be published in October.

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