Entrepreneurs come in different types. Not everybody is the wiz-kid app inventor, or the Steve Jobs-type salesman. That being said, all entrepreneurs have one thing in common: they are creative problem solvers. Though it may vary exactly how they turn this problem-solving into a product or service, all identify a problem and find a new way to solve it — whether that means an innovative new feature, lower costs, or a totally new solution.
Each “kind of entrepreneur” is a dominant trait or characteristic in a creative problem solver. Not all entrepreneurs embody these types, and many embody several different types. But these are ways of looking at these traits and identifying them in different entrepreneurs.
The inventor-entrepreneur, who can also be thought of as “The Tinkerer,” is the technically skilled developer, programmer, or engineer who builds their own platform or product. This is the person who will sit down and tinker, building, failing, and rebuilding, until they have created a product that pleases them. They have the hard skills that others lack, and that are necessary to actually developing or building a new product or service.
Strengths: The Tinkerer has both the savvy problem-solving of a philosopher and the hard skill sets of a scientist. They can not only identify problems, but also solve these problems tangibly without having to outsource this job to another person.
Weaknesses: Though they can tangibly identify and solve problems, Tinkerers may have a difficult time selling their product to consumers, or managing fellow business deals or subordinates. They oftentimes need to partner with Strategists or Salesmen to fully leverage their product.
- Steve Wozniak
- Nikola Tesla
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Orville and Wilbur Wright
- Satoshi Nakamoto
Like a general navigating his troops across a battlefield, the Strategist is a professional at navigating and solving problems faced in systems. Systems define the Strategist, whether it be in building new systems to solve problems, or it is refining the standing system to make it more efficient for those who are stuck in it. The Strategist sees avenues where others see only roadblocks, and may be trained in navigating notoriously complicated systems, like a legal code or a financial system. They can be seen working in industries that emphasize systems, like transportation or finance.
Strengths: Like the Tinkerer, the Strategist has unique knowledge of their own trade. Unlike the Tinkerer, Strategists may find this unique knowledge as something purely or primarily abstract — rather than building a new program, they think up a new way of navigating a code or financing a project, for example.
Weaknesses: Though the Strategist may find a new way to develop logistics, or a better way to make money through investments, they may not have the hard skills necessary to implement this (e.g., develop a new travel program like Uber or Lyft), or the social pull to sell the product.
- Peter Thiel
- Elon Musk
- Richard Branson
- Garrett Camp
With an ability to dazzle and convince consumers they want the product, the Salesman is an integral part to any entrepreneurial team (whether that means as the lead entrepreneur, or as a characteristic of a Tinkerer, Strategist, or Navigator). The Salesman isn’t merely a marketer or a brand-builder — they are a persuader at their lowest, and a hypnotist at their best. The power of the Salesman can be seen in their self-confidence when developing or creating a product that has little-to-no demand on the market, because they know they can convince people to want the product.
Strengths: The ideal Salesman is embodied in Steve Jobs — an almost-magical ability to take a product, like the iPad, that has no demand on the marketplace, and convince consumers they should want the product. The Tinkerer or Strategist may develop the product, but that’s useless if nobody buys it.
Weaknesses: Selling the product is great, but only if a product actually exists. A Salesman oftentimes has to partner with a Strategist or a Tinkerer, or learn the skills, in order to be successful.
- Steve Jobs
- Henry Ford
- Thomas Edison
- Arianna Huffington
These aren’t the only types of entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs don’t necessarily fit into any or all of these boxes perfectly. Any entrepreneur can be both a Strategist and a Salesman, or even a combination of all three. This is a way of thinking about different ways to approach entrepreneurship, to help identify your own skills and leverage these, while working towards embodying all three types, to become the best possible version of yourself.