Posted by: Bill von Achen | February 12, 2010

Entrepreneurs Are Not Risk-Takers

For many, successful entrepreneurs are closely associated with risk-takers. But, in a recent article in The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell debunks this long-believed mythology.

In his article entitled “The Sure Thing: How Entrepreneurs Really Succeed,” Gladwell argues that successful entrepreneurs are anything but risk-takers. Instead, they are driven by their pursuit of opportunities that remain undiscovered by others, and where the risk of failure is minimized.

Gladwell cites examples from media mogul Ted Turner to hedge fund manager John Paulson (who made billions of dollars in 2007 and 2008 in the wake of the collapse of residential real estate values) as examples of entrepreneurs who appear to have taken incredible risks in their business life but who, in fact, took advantage of ‘structural holes’ in their respective market niches to orchestrate deals with virtually no risk.

An abstract of Gladwell’s article is available at The New Yorker web site at   Or, contact us at for a complementary copy of the complete article.

At the end of his article, Gladwell draws one of those overly simple conclusions for which he is famous, but which nonetheless serves as a gratifying reminder of why all of us are in business for ourselves.

He says that the one indisputable finding in all research on entrepreneurship is that people who work for themselves are far happier than others. Quoting economist Scott Shane, Gladwell notes that “the average person would have to earn two and a half times as much to be as happy working for someone else as he would be working for himself.”

In the end, it’s not so much about the money as it is the chance to do the work we want to do!

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