There is not just one path to success. The BOSI Quadrant, described by entrepreneur and mentor Joe Abrahams, is a system for identifying the different personality styles of aspiring businesspeople. He suggests that people are a combination of one or two of the different DNA types, and all have widely varying approaches to entrepreneurship and life.
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2. DNA Types
The BOSI Quadrant is the brainchild of businessman, mentor and serial entrepreneur Joe Abraham, which he first described in detail in 2011. Abraham posits that entrepreneurship is the driving force about real positive change and success within business, and despite this, it is being repressed worldwide. He believes that in the past, budding entrepreneurs and business people have been harmed by the idea that there is only one, regimented way to the top; one type of entrepreneurship. He proposes that academics, business owners and investments need to be far more open to different personalities and approaches to business. In his work over the years, Abraham has discussed four different types of ‘entrepreneurial DNA’; the constituents of the BOSI acronym. The quadrant is designed to segment entrepreneurs into 16 different combinations based on the 4 types of ‘DNA’, matching their specific business and personality traits, and all lead down different paths to success. Each individual quadrant describes a type of “entrepreneur”, and often success requires a company filled with more than one, if not all of these different personalities.
The first DNA type, Builder, is the main constituent of those who are known to be serial entrepreneurs. These are the stereotypical entrepreneurs; the ones people around the world seek to emulate but more often than not fail. However, most fail as their personalities, knowledge, skills and other traits do not match those required to be a ‘Builder’ – they just cannot think in the same way.
Builders will buy or build a business, continue to grow and enhance it to a certain extent, then sell it and repeat the process with a new company. Builders gain resources effortlessly; attracting followers, capital, investment seemingly at their own will. They are very structured in their approach, and like to take a hands-on, controlling grip over the business. Generally, they enjoy measuring growth in absolute terms, they have specific quantifiable KPIs and performance targets that they set their business, employees, and themselves. Their pre-designed infrastructure goals are what make their businesses scalable and sustainable, and allow them to apply themselves to multiple different projects.
Abraham did also described weaknesses to each of his different DNA blocks. One major weakness of Builders is their relationship management; as opportunists, they tend to use employees and colleagues as resources, rather than people. This leads to bad relations with other professional salespeople – builders tend to not retain contact with many close colleagues as they move on through life.
The traits of the Opportunists are simple; they seek single opportunities to make a lot of money, as fast as possible. They need not remain and build a company – they want to make money quickly, take the cash, so they do not have to work ever again. Opportunists simply see business as the vehicle which will drive them to their final destination: wealth. In big businesses, these are the employees and management who keep deals coming in the door. They jump between deals, hunting for the chance to make a big break. This relies on them being incredibly optimistic – any big losses they make, will need to be resolved by a large win. And – being incredibly impulsive in their decision making – there is often a large number of both. They are always looking at the future in terms of results, and care little for the money they are currently making if, when their next set of deals come through, they will be making far more. They will generally find themselves making money from multiple streams of income. Any opportunity to make cash which comes their way, they will jump on – so they need to be good multi-taskers.
However, one weakness is the instability of this approach. Due to their impulsivity, opportunists will often see many ups and downs in terms of profit throughout their career; not every project or business will be a successful one. However, their ability to reapply themselves means that they are likely to earn money again at a later date, but this is not always a guarantee.
The Specialists are the experts of the business world. They find one area in which they can excel, and they immerse themselves in it. These individuals tend to remain within one field, or very few, for their entire working life. They always provide strong service to their clients and consumers, as they are experts and perfectionists in their field. They are incredibly analytical and methodical in what they do, looking to develop their company in a very structured and safe manner. This may, however, lead to a plateau in growth not far along the line – taking no risks and sowing no new fields leaves less opportunity for rapid development or monetary gains. This matters little, they tend to measure their success in their own personal income – which often does not grow at a similar rate to their business. This may initially increase quickly, but once they have reached a satisfactory wage, it may be that the organisation’s growth slows. As they do not take risks, they are often reliant on a developed network of consumers and suppliers to come to them for business, as they may not proactively hunt for many deals.
In addition, as specialists do not put themselves out there with regards to development, they may often find themselves struggling in a crowded marketplace full of innovators and risk-takers. Sometimes they will not take that extra step to put themselves out there in front of competitors, and this may be damaging in the long term as well as the short.
In the words of Abraham, this DNA makes up the “accidental entrepreneurs” of the business world. They were doing something, or making something which they were passionate about, and it just so happened that a business sprung up a result. This often comes at the encouragement of peers, pushing them to make a business from their ideas and creations. Their home is the lab, rather than the boardroom. For them, it is often not about the money. Instead, it is about the long-term impact of their work; the legacy they will leave behind. These are the reclusive individuals which, if no-one told you, you may not know owned huge swathes of the intellectual property which makes up our world.
Their weakness is their business acumen. They have their “Eureka!” moments, but often rely on the actions of their close team to aid in the day-to-day running of their business. Business is a totally different world to innovation – and often it takes a little more than a lecture or degree to turn them into a businessman. Their mind will always be set on creating things, not making deals.
Generally, individuals are made up of not one, but combinations of two or more of the different entrepreneurial DNA types. However, one type is usually predominant – the primary DNA. For example, BO/OB (upper quadrant) entrepreneurs would make up the individuals who build large, multi-industry portfolios, dipping into multiple different opportunities across many different fields. Alternatively, SI/IS (lower quadrant) entrepreneurs would err towards developing one industry throughout their entire career. BS/SB (left quadrant) individuals are incredibly systematic builders of business; they are all about operational management and infrastructure within their organisation. However, they are also associated with personality issues such as pride and ego, which can affect their relationships with others. OI/IO (right quadrant) businesspeople are the opposite – creative, big thinkers who generally avoid management and infrastructure and instead flit between multiple different projects, as they feel.
The cross-quadrant (BI/IB, SO/OS) entrepreneurs are in perhaps the strongest starting position – that is, the weaknesses of their primary ‘DNA’ is often the strengths of their secondary, and with just a little training can make themselves into well-rounded businesspeople. However, there is also a downside to this. They may sometimes find themselves flipping back and forth between two different approaches to business and entrepreneurship, which can damage their overall strategy in the long term – therefore, they need to maintain balance. For example, Specialist-Opportunists (SO) – these tend to find themselves in services such as finance and consultant – may often find themselves torn between whether to tackle an issue or opportunity in a careful, calculated manner, or whether to be slightly impulsive with their decision-making.
These different types of entrepreneurs that Abraham outlined indicate that rather than one, there are several different pathways to market – and in the future, potentially to success. Self-awareness is required to identify which kind of entrepreneur you are, to play your strengths, and to accommodate your weaknesses. However, Abraham suggests that you need not try to train yourself to be something which you are not – though this can help with certain knowledge and skill gaps – your personality predisposes you to certain strengths and weaknesses. Instead, this may often require bringing in individuals from different quadrants to fill gaps which you may not be able to fill. For example; if you are an innovator, you may find yourself needing any of the other quadrants in order to develop business strategy. A specialist may require an opportunist to seize upon chances for the company to grow, which would otherwise have been missed in their long-term plan. Even in large businesses, employees or management staff can be mapped onto the quadrant according to their relative business personalities. By doing so, quadrants lacking in individuals can be filled by identifying new employees with traits specific to these areas of shortcoming.
Abraham suggests also that employers need to more open to different personalities and different approaches to work – there is not just one way of tackling a problem, and not one pathway to business success. This extends to the schooling system; teachers are often not receptive to different methods or different propensities to learn across subjects. Everyone can be successful, but it requires others around them who can facilitate their growth and understand the value of their contributions.