Monday, February 2, 2009

What's your mindset?

Meeting report
SDForum Marketing SIG 1/12/09
By: Mark Helfen

What's your mindset?

Or more importantly, what is the mindset of a successful entrepreneur?

That was the question covered by Frauke Schorr at the January 12 SIG meeting. Schorr, who provides "Coaching for Professional and Personal Excellence," discussed the results of her research that characterized the mindset of successful entrepreneurs.

She described the output of her work as defining "how successful people think."

A mindset is a specific way of thinking, leading to a specific way of acting. It might be described as how you see the world. Schorr claims that the success of entrepreneurs is only based 20 percent on specific skills, and 80 percent on the thinking and acting mindset.

Her May 2008 study was based on in-depth interviews with ten successful entrepreneurs. They ranged from 23 to 67 years old, were located in several countries, and owned between 2 and 42 business over their professional careers. They founded, inherited, or purchased their businesses, and at least one of their business needed to have "sustained, consistent asset growth for at least the last three years."

The types of business ran the gamut from photography to technology, and were not all the typical Silicon Valley high-tech startup.

Analyzing the responses to her questions, Schorr divided her subjects into "growers", and "maintainers." In each of these groups, they were either "satisfied" and "unsatisfied," for a total of four categories.

Schorr was asked if an individual's mindset could change over time. Her answer was that different people would have different answers, but in her opinion a new mindset could be learned.

Growers see their career as a path they are traveling on, and work at ways to keep moving along the path. Maintainers see their career successes as discreet points or plateaus, and work to maintain the success that they have.

"Growers are always looking at the next opportunity, there is always something else," said Schorr. "Their past achievements were not a success, but more of a stepping stone."

Growers tend to shift their roles within their companies frequently over time, "innovating who they are in their business."

Maintainers reflected on specific points in time when they felt they were successful. They said they "want to maintain that level," They like what they have and how things are working for them, and want to keep that level of success.

Some maintainers start out as growers, but over time shift their mindset.

The satisfied - dissatisfied scale reflected whether these entrepreneurs were focused on the present, versus feeling a constant internal pressure to either achieve more and focus on the future, or to keep themselves sharp and competitive.

"The satisfied growers were really curious,' said Schorr. "Lets see what's on the next level, lets explore the next thing."

The dissatisfied growers felt more "internal force."

"They said things like 'I really need to be uneasy, because as long as I'm uneasy and keep myself on the edge it keeps me going, If I get too comfortable I'm not going to achieve anything any more."

Overall, Schorr found that the satisfied growers increased the values of their business the most.

Despite their differences, all of the people she interviewed had a number of common behaviors, though they acted differently on them depending on their mindset.

You can view the presentation materials that were used at the meeting on the SDForum website, in the archives (listed under "resources")

You can find more information on Frauke Schorr at her web site:

Mark Helfen is a Marketing Consultant and Freelance Writer. He can be reached at

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