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Left-brained People Can Be Entrepreneurs Too

February 10th, 2016 by ajoldersma

This article by Fahad Tariq, Ivey MBA 2016, was originally published in The Globe and Mail on February 9, 2016. 

Being an accountant, I can safely say that I’m left-brained. That is, my thought process is (generally) based on logic, analysis and facts. Whenever I examine a business problem, I instinctively search for the numbers  market size, revenue growth, operating margin, you name it.

When I think about entrepreneurs, I imagine people who are right-brained – you know, the creative types. These are the individuals who come up with innovative ideas based on their superb imagination and intuition. These brilliant minds see the world differently than us left-brained folks, and they’re the ones best suited to become entrepreneurs, not us. But this is not accurate.

At the start of my MBA program, I convinced myself to get out of my comfort zone and to try something different, preferably something related to entrepreneurship. Like most people I dreamed of running my own company one day, but I worried that my thought process didn’t match that of most entrepreneurs. I decided to take as many entrepreneurship courses as I could and to attempt to launch my own business coming out of school, even if it was something small. If this business took off, then I would pursue it and, if it didn’t, it would be a learning experience. By starting small, I was hedging my bets (of course this was my left brain talking).

I had seen every episode of Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank and always wondered if my analytical thinking could prove useful in the world of entrepreneurship. What I learned after taking a number of entrepreneurship courses, developing multiple business plans and meeting with potential investors is that analytical thinking is extremely valuable, if not necessary, in entrepreneurship.

Yes, creativity is required because you need to come up with a new or better way of solving a compelling problem. But ideas are only the beginning of an entrepreneur’s journey. The real challenge is execution. And when it comes to execution, a successful entrepreneur needs to be able to objectively evaluate the competitive environment, determine the segments and size of the market, develop revenue and expense estimates, and act according to this careful analysis. This requires a ton of left-brain thinking.

Even idea generation can be thought of as a systematic process – a process of identifying a problem faced by a large enough group of people who are willing to pay for a solution, and then working through potential solutions based on feasibility and industry analysis. This analytical approach should be encouraged because it is less prone to failure.

In terms of my own entrepreneurship journey, I’m working with a group of talented MBA students to launch a healthy, energy-boosting snack. Although at first glance this may appear a crowded industry, our detailed analysis shows that there is a particular segment of the market that is underserved. When we presented our business plan to a group of investors a few months ago, they were most impressed by our understanding of the healthy food industry and how we planned to carve out a niche, and not necessarily our base idea. We’re now in discussions with a prominent investor for seed funding, which is really exciting. Going through the process of developing a robust business plan has encouraged me, a left-brained accountant, to pursue entrepreneurship in some way.

It’s clear to me that left-brained people are more than capable of becoming successful entrepreneurs and should not be afraid of going down the new venture path. The notion that all successful entrepreneurs are simply creative geniuses is false. There are plenty of successful entrepreneurs who developed and executed their ideas based on logical thinking and thoughtful research, with a hint of originality, and I hope to join their ranks in the future.


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