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What makes entrepreneurs “entrepreneurial"

By Leander J. Opperman, Strategist at UNLOK Consulting

In 2020 I spent some time studying the fascinating topic (in the heading of this article).

I came across an article by authors, Spinelli, and Adams1.

While discussing the nature of entrepreneurship, they commented that entrepreneurship is "...a way of thinking, reasoning, and acting...(it) is opportunity obsessed..."

What does it mean to be “opportunity obsessed” or “opportunity focused”?

Successful entrepreneurs concentrate on seizing new opportunities.2

But, this does not seem to be a novel concept.

Timmons et al 3 came to a similar conclusion.

High and low-performing firms differ in their opportunity recognition and exploitation models.

The well-known management consultant and author, Peter Drucker, shares this view.

He commented that: “…successful innovators are ....not “risk-focused; they are “opportunity focused”

Most successful entrepreneurs have more than personality characteristics, such as charisma.

Author Jim Collins discussed an example of such opportunity focus in his book4.

Nucor Steel (a US firm) started its operations as an automaker.

It lost ground as the economy declined from the 1930s to the 1940s.

At the time of the war in Korea in 1954. there was significant demand by the defence industry for trucks and vehicles.

Nucor recognised the opportunity to manufacture trucks and vehicles

After the had the war ended, Nucor filed for bankruptcy. The demand for this source of business had disappeared.

The board of Nucor appointed Ken Iverson (a metallurgist) as CEO.

Iverson knew the market well and had a passion for steelmaking.

He helped to transform Nucor by developing the mini-mill manufacturing process.5

In fact, he reshaped the face of the entire US steel industry.

Iverson recognised an opportunity. He stayed focused on such an opportunity over a long period of time.

This opportunity obsession helped NUCOR to become a $3.5 billion firm in the 1970-1990s.

Nucor continued to achieve great success in later years.

The firm still exists today as the largest steel producer in the US.


The ability to recognize and seize an opportunity is a vital attribute.

It helps the entrepreneur to expect threats to longevity changes in the environment.

This requires facing harsh realities while considering opportunities and being open to learning.

1 Spinelli S and Adams RJ: New Venture Creation: Entrepreneurship for the 21st century, 10th ed, p 77

2 See 1 above at p 29

3 Timmins, Muzyka, Stevenson, and Bygrave: “Opportunity recognition: the core of entrepreneurship”. In Frontiers of entrepreneurship research (Babson Park, MA: Babson College, 1987), p 409

4 Collins, J: Good to great 2001 p136-139

5 A mini mill uses electric arc furnaces to melt scrap steel as opposed to blast furnaces to melt iron

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