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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

The 7 Traits of the (Really) Wealthy

How and why the wealthy got so rich. Here are alternative ways to learn to think about building wealth.

Arun Sangwan




Wouldn’t you love to be wealthy? Most people readily confess that they would, and yet they do almost nothing about it.

Ask them why, and they typically state a range of reasons, including: A lack of resources, inexperience, skepticism and hostility of their surroundings, the absence of a mentor, a failed initiative in the past, the absence of a supportive societal culture, an adverse business environment and so on.

I can assure you, these are nothing but convenient excuses. To support my argument, think about this. As per Bloomberg, 73 of the 100 richest people in the world are self-made. Of these 36 had poor parents, 18 had no college degree and 8 had poor parents and no degree.

Notably Larry Ellison (Oracle), Li Ka-Shing (Cheung Kong etc.) and Leonardo del Vecchio (Luxxotica) are orphans. The parents of Amancio Ortega (Zara), John Fedricksen (Meisha etc.), Sheldon Adelson (Las Vegas Sands), Invgar Kampard (IKEA), Francois Pinault (Samsonite, Gucci etc.) were a railroad worker, a welder, a cab driver, a farmer and a lumber miller respectively.

So why is it that the illustrious entrepreneurs listed above achieved great wealth despite adverse conditions? Because they had unyielding commitment.

Someone who is ardently committed to creating wealth will instinctively show initiative rather than exhibiting inaction. They will also show a range of habits that include seeing and acting on opportunities, systematic planning, problem solving skills, commitment to work, concern for high quality, coordinating and organising skills, perseverance, persuasion skills, assertiveness, and self-confidence.

These are formally identified as the entrepreneurial competencies. The good news is that they can be learnt.

While most of us remain in awe of the wealthy, we’re not inclined to probe their journey to wealth. Instead, I have studied their early life to identify commonalities in their actions. I have not included people who attained wealth by inheritance or marriage, but through hard work.

Based on it, I present to you the seven traits of the wealthy.

1. Own a wealth-creation engine

The core belief that dominates their thinking is that wealth creation can never be outsourced or gained by partaking in someone else’s vision, but by persuading others to participate in your vision.

The wealthy do not ‘act in theaters’ owned by others. Quite the reverse, they’re the ones who:

  • Write the script (the business narrative)
  • Conceive of an output that is highly valued by customers
  • Organise resources accordingly: By devising sufficient incentives for others to act in their theater and/or persuade them to part with their resources – employees, investors, asset owners etc
  • Assign roles to people
  • Coordinate activities.

While they may invest elsewhere, the point is that it is never their primary wealth creation engine.

2. Resource-ownership is futile

The early life of most of the wealthy can be traced to humble or even disadvantaged settings. But a lack of resources never stopped them from reaching for their dreams. Their beliefs are:

  • Never restrict vision and goals to resources currently controlled, but rather set ambitious vision and goals, and then find ways to organise resources
  • Seeking resource-ownership is futile, as most resources are put to unproductive use by their owners, who will readily part with it for superior returns
  • It’s critical to devise ways of moving resources out of an area of lower and into an area of superior productivity and greater yield.

Accordingly, they develop a set of skills that are rare, unique and can’t readily be sourced from the market. These skills include:

  • Seeking opportunities where imperfect competition exists
  • Networking for accessing private information
  • Deal making to gain from temporary opportunities
  • Harnessing creativity of others
  • Harnessing innovation
  • Bringing all elements together.

3. Access to private information

They manage risk by acquiring private information. This type of information has limited distribution and is unavailable to the public. Their beliefs are:

  • The acquisition of information is an investment
  • Networking is a key to access to private information
  • Networks should be open and global, not local and closed
  • The choice of people in the network should be guided by people’s competencies and resourcefulness and not closeness

As Prof. James O Fiet states, ‘An entrepreneur is a person who optimises the tradeoff between investing too much and too little in specific, risk reducing information.’

4. Believe in imperfect competition

In perfect competition, all participants earn the same levels of profits. None can get wealthy that way. If they could, there would be no incentive for them to bear above-normal levels of risk in return for average levels of profits. So the wealthy chose to operate where:

  • Imperfect competition exists
  • They have access to private information to manage risks
  • They can benefit from a situation where others are excluded by design.

 5. Crafty deal making

The wealthy are proficient in this art. I have seen sufficient evidence that:

  • As alert discoverers, all they see are deals around them
  • They instinctively engage in deal-making all the time
  • With private information they know dynamics better than others
  • While the rest consciously discard temporary opportunities to make money, they do not.

6. Unique key for choosing and rejecting ventures

Given alternatives, the wealthy trade-off between the probability of and magnitude of loss in a peculiar manner:

  • They  undertake alternatives with a high probability of a loss as long as it is small
  • They avoid any choice where the loss could be ruinous, even if its probability was low
  • They would reject an opportunity if they could not assess its risk.

7. Consulting and/or Intellectual Property

Let me explain this through an anecdote. Recently two homemakers confronted me on which entrepreneurial opportunities they could pursue.

Step one was figuring out what they were passionate about. We drew a blank except that they ‘liked’ shopping for sarees (a dress worn by Indian women). So, what could we do with this interest? I could only think of Indian weddings. The brides buy around 30 to 50 sarees.

The affluent spend upwards of R50 000 or even multiples of R50 000. Then there are Non Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin across the globe. That is a huge market. With specialist skills, one can be a consultant.

Surely, you would need to master what goes into making a saree – processes, materials and their sources, weaving techniques, designs, custom designs, number of man-hours it takes, pricing etc. and then of course the import of the occasion, customs and so on.

Be it any field, mastering skills takes years to perfect. However, it can be your primary wealth creation engine. Parallel to that, you should seek avenues for sharing it with others through books, videos, lectures etc, thereby creating intellectual property, and a second (and often more successful) revenue stream.

Create a portfolio of micro businesses

You do not necessarily need to be an entrepreneur to create wealth. An alternative is to learn to think, assess and invest in micro or small enterprises, just as venture capitalists and private equity firms invest in medium or large businesses.

Professor Arun Sangwan teaches strategy and entrepreneurship for the MBA programme at the School of Business, Alliance University, Bangalore. He is a consultant to leading companies in the financial markets for the development of newer trading strategies and algorithmic trading. His last corporate assignment was as the country manager - India & SAARC for Sanrad. Previously he managed strategic alliances for companies as Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Graphics in India. He has also worked for the Tata group and HCL. Connect with him on LinkedIn or email to for more information.

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  1. John K

    May 28, 2014 at 11:58

    Briefly put the way to wealth is not a highway but a narrow street that someone takes the trouble to find and reaps the benefits.If it was visible you would have a highway built there too which makes it perfect competition and its the imperfection or assymetry in information that gets in the additional margins. Even in todays day and age entrepreneurs are finding that unknown street and it is really a testimony to the spirit of entrepreneurship which is basically restlessness and changing the status quo. Wonderfully captured by the author of this article.

  2. shridhar hiremath

    Aug 31, 2014 at 17:11

    Seems simple, but hidden traits!! The Entrepreneurs need to indentify that white space in the market and make a strategic mark by pursuing everthing that comes your way towards the goal and vision. Very impressive observations Sir @Arun sangwan.

  3. Leaxan Freitas

    Sep 10, 2014 at 15:51

    “all they see are deals around them”, this is very true, what may look like a barren field to the common man may be seen as something as simple as a potential parking lot or a place to set up shop by an entrepreneur.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

4 Entry-Level Jobs That Will Prep You For Entrepreneurial Success

Success is a journey, not a destination, so think hard about where to start.




Entrepreneurship might look like an unruly beast, especially when larger corporations are involved. However, those in the daily grind of entry-level positions are already developing the necessary skills to bring this wayward creature to heel.

“One of the first truths you’ll learn about entrepreneurship is that you’re 100 percent responsible for your success or failure,” says fellow Entrepreneur columnist Mike Monroe.

Entry-level positions in many different areas – including sales, marketing, development, project management and customer service – provide the perfect environment for future entrepreneurs to learn that truth and hone their skills.

Learning to fly from the ground up

While the average entrepreneur is 40 years old, younger people eager to make their own way have plenty of developmental opportunities that can help them hit the ground running. According to a 2017 survey from Heidrick & Struggles, nearly 15 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies started in the sales department. These high-powered executives didn’t waltz into the C-suite on day one; they learned the tricks of the trade on the front lines with everyone else.

Related: Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles

If you crave the life of an entrepreneur, don’t let the barriers to entry get you down. Take one of the following entry-level jobs and use your time in the workforce to get the experience you need to launch your own business.

1. Sales

Inbound or outbound, sales experience can give any would-be entrepreneur a leg up. Not only do you learn how to communicate effectively in a sales position; you must also understand the products you sell (and the brand behind them).

A job in sales will teach you to stop trying to convince people that they need what you have and start listening to what they want. Once you recognise that the market dictates what you sell, and not the other way around, you’ll be prepared to run a successful start-up.

2. Human resources

human-resourcesHR pros keep businesses running. If you work as one, you will quickly learn how much things like timely payment, accurate sick-day counts and health insurance matter to workers. To keep your team happy, you’ll need to know what employees consider to be important. What better way to learn that than to take a job where they let you know?

Jobs in HR also provide crash courses in communication skills and legal compliance. For example, it’s much better to learn that a manager can’t force an employee with folliculitis to shave his beard before the decision affects your pocketbook.

Related: Going It Alone In Business? 5 Reasons That’s A Really Bad Idea

3. Customer service

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in: If you deal directly with customers, you learn how to handle tasks quickly while keeping a friendly face.

Customers range from the kindest people you will ever meet to those who become enraged when they can’t double their coupons. As an entrepreneur, you and your team will deal with all of them. Learn how to respond to customer complaints on someone else’s dime, so that when it’s your turn to do so, your learning experiences won’t have a negative impact on your bottom line.

4. Leadership

To be a truly successful entrepreneur, you must learn how to lead a team. Leaders invariably learn some tough lessons at the helm, but if you wait until you are running the whole operation, those lessons could cost you some of your best workers.

This may seem like an odd suggestion for an article on entry-level positions, but note that you don’t need to be in a leadership position to learn leadership skills. From your first day on a job, your supervisors will be sizing up your initiative-taking ability and your critical-thinking and time-management skills to determine whether you have the capabilities necessary to take on more complicated projects. Look for opportunities to listen effectively and motivate those around you – this will help you hone your leadership craft until you get the opportunity to take on the role for yourself.

Related: Start This Business With Zero Advertising Budget And No Need For Premises

These positions and skill sets provide invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs, but they’re hardly the only ones. Reporters, insurance adjusters, accountants, teachers and consultants – these jobs and many others are full of learning opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

If you have to work for someone else before you found your own company, don’t treat the opportunity with disdain. Learn everything you can on the job, so that when your time comes you can use those lessons to lead your company to success.

This article was originally posted here on

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Youthful Entrepreneurs Light The Way

If there’s one thing these go-getters have in common, it’s a determination to succeed. As we celebrate Youth Month, let’s learn from their example.

Morné Stoltz




South Africa is already a very young country with 45.88 percent of the population under 24; by 2050, this proportion will have increased as the youth population is expected to double to 830 million. Already, 50 percent of the youth are unemployed, so it’s very clear that young people can’t sit around waiting for jobs to come their way – if they want a satisfying life, they will have to take charge of their own destinies.

This is just what these four inspirational young people have done

the-mouse-hole-imke-de-villiers1. Imke de Villiers

All of them started young. Imke de Villiers, the youngest of the four, is only eleven, but her first book, The mouse hole, is available on Kindle and in online stores. It is evident that a big part of her success is the lead given by her parents.

“At the beginning of the year, we all had to write down three goals for the year, and the book was one of those,” Imke says.

“I have very supportive parents. My sister and I are challenged frequently to think outside of the box. We tell stories, think of money-making ideas and always use our creativity.”

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

2. Ingrid Moruane

Ingrid Moruane was also an early starter. “Since I was in high school, I’ve always seen myself as the boss. I’m a very driven person, and love working under pressure,” she says. Ingrid was fortunate to get some work experience as a project manager and optical assistant before following the advice of her then-boss to go out on her own, which she did in 2015. Now, aged 24, she will be moving out of her home office to premises in Joburg’s trendy Melrose Arch.

Ingrid’s business is Ing Management, and her concept is a unique one: she provides a portfolio of non-core services to government entities or corporates – event management, team-building events, catering, stationery and even office furniture. She uses trusted subcontractors to get the work done – what she provides is the vision and management. It is a turnkey service designed to remove a lot of detail off the to-do list of a corporate employee.

She sees funding as one of the biggest hurdles she has faced – and this is something one hears a lot about when talking to entrepreneurs. However, she pays tribute to the innovative approach taken by her bank, which stretches to introducing her to potential clients.

“More banks should do the same kind of thing,” she believes.

Believe in yourself

3. Sheldon Crabtree

deep-roots-night-market-sheldon-crabtreeSheldon Crabtree has a similar drive to succeed on his own terms. Although his parents sent him and his siblings to good schools – he is an alumnus of Pretoria Boys’ High School, which also produced Elon Musk – there was little spare money. “If we wanted personal things, we had to work for the money,” he says. As early as Grade 5, he would save his pocket money to buy sweets to sell at school; he also refurbished items for resale.

No surprise, then, that he decided not to go the route of getting a degree and a “safe” job, but rather took responsibility for his own life. He likes the idea of benefitting from his efforts.

Now aged 24, Sheldon is the proud owner of a woodworking business and the Deep Roots Night Market, which is held on the first Friday of each month in Groenkloof, Pretoria. The market provides not only gourmet food but also entertainment in a beautiful setting. Around 3 000 people attend each event.

Like Ingrid, he found start-up capital a major challenge – his solution was to take a part-time job that gave him some seed money and spare time. The woodworking, which began as a hobby, also provided some initial funding.

Related: Funding And Resources For Young SA Entrepreneurs

4. Zwelakhe Khuzwayo

Zwelakhe Khuzwayo, 26, is a great example of somebody who saw entrepreneurship as a way to make lemonade out of the lemons that life gave him! He lost his job but, nothing daunted, drew on the inspiration of his friend, Thulane Maestro Mathebula, to set up his own business making promotional videos and producing music.

“I’m one of the few people doing this kind of thing in the north-eastern areas of Pretoria, where I live,” he says. “I hope to gain recognition for the work that I do and hopefully my company will grow and expand.”

Start young

What all these inspiring young people agree on is the need for entrepreneurs to start young, and to believe in themselves.

Zwelakhe says that if you put in the work and effort, you will never go wrong.

For Imke, it is all about daring to be who you authentically are – you will always find a way to achieve what you want. “There are always other ways, other options,” she says.

Ingrid has stayed true to her childhood ideal of being the boss.

Sheldon (like Imke) says that parents have a big part to play. Being supportive is part of it, but it is also important to get their children on the right path. “Let your kids understand the power of creating their own wealth. On top of the set chores, let your kids do extra chores for money,” he advises. “Ask the school if they will be able to sell anything during break time, and make sure they get to grips with the social, financial and planning aspects of business.”

As the old saying has it, the child is the father or mother of the man or woman. That is very true – but it also helps if there is an adult helping the process along! As adults, let’s make sure we fulfill this role in the lives of our youth.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

The Kindling Of The Entrepreneur Spirit

The principle of entrepreneurship is to observe challenges and find ways to improve them while simultaneously weighing up the relevant costs and benefits.

David Hatherell




Many university students are funnelled into a conservative career such as a lawyer, engineer, actuary or accountant. This is often the popular choice and has the advantages of receiving stable income and benefit packages – it is a “safety net” career and offers the prestige of the title and security of the degree.

That being said, there are a lot of insights that you may miss if you use the narrow definition of what entrepreneurship means in the traditional sense – “starting your own business.” Entrepreneurship is more than that and, in my view, should be looked at using a three-principles based approach. The principle of entrepreneurship is to observe challenges and find ways to improve them while simultaneously weighing up the relevant costs and benefits.

Principle 1 – Adding Value Within Organisations

In my field, being an actuary with a data science background, you always need to find a better way of doing things. We need to use our resources, skills, and systems in a manner that would support our organisations to ensure that we add value to society.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job To Start A Business

In essence, we need to use statistical or modelling techniques responsibly to ensure that three key focal points are met, which is easily adapted to becoming a viable entrepreneur, with a trusted reputation:

  • We do not mistreat or take advantage of consumers;
  • The results of initiatives or strategies are measured appropriately; and
  • There are no biases based on torturing data to get the results you want.

In addition to doing a good job, we needed to ensure that the work we do can be repeated, with ease and automated where relevant. This will ensure that our influence is long lasting and scalable, which is also critical to starting your own business or initiative. Most long-term solutions should also be flexible enough to add value to society, in whatever touch-points they are impacting.

Principle 2 – Benefitting Society

This is not about how much you give but rather what impact you have. We need to be honest with ourselves and determine appropriate measures to monitor success and what our ROI is aimed at becoming. This is often a challenge and is oversimplified or overlooked by many. For example, we may celebrate success metrics by reviewing how many scholars we fund or how much money was given to upcoming entrepreneurs.

This measure will have little benefit if all the scholars drop out or all entrepreneurial initiatives fail, we will essentially be celebrating an empty figure. The impact we have needs to be long-lasting and setting up society for success, with or without your continual influence.

Responsible and appropriate ways of measuring benefit will help add value to many initiatives. It’s a significant risk starting an initiative without any key performance indicators or measures of success, as you will have nothing to benchmark against and no measure to celebrate or punt as transparent and real success measures.

Principle 3 – Starting an Entrepreneurial Initiative

Some skills are necessary to start your initiative and working for a large organisation may help you build these skills or refine them. Key performance indicators are often used within larger organisations, and these companies may have proper structures in place to learn communication skills, the importance of planning, setting up budgets, pitching ideas or tracking results over time.

Related: How To Survive 150 Straight Rejections

As such, some young adults prefer entering the world of work as a first step and then using what they learn to start something new in the years to come. Whichever approach you take, ensure you are learning as much as you can and are open to mentorship, guidance and constructive criticism, we can’t possibly know everything, and there is always more we can learn and improve on.

Bringing It All Together 

Starting an entrepreneurial initiative will require a lot of bravery and resilience, an open mind, a good idea, relevant skills and support (financial and social).

What I admire, is that a foundation such as the Make A Difference Leadership Foundation has robust structures in place to support and encourage their scholars, should they wish to start an initiative in the future. And despite the prestige or the safety in obtaining a degree, the foundation inspires the scholars to follow their dreams, no matter how audacious they might be.

With the vision of the Make A Difference in mind, we believe that our scholars and fellows will be able to contribute and add value to organisations. Some may start their own initiatives and those who don’t will still use the principles of entrepreneurship in their daily lives. We all aim to continuously identify solutions that will add value to those around us.

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