By Bryan Orr

Who are you? Why are you in business? What motivates you? It can be useful to take a step back and look at the big picture. It doesn’t take much analysis to see that all business owners are not alike, and something that works for one person may not work for another.

I recently interviewed Joe Abraham about his book, Entrepreneurial DNA (McGraw Hill, 2011). In the book, he splits business owners up into four groups. Most of us are strong in one category, but may have portions of another mixed in. Here is a look at Abraham’s four types of entrepreneurs.


A Builder is one who is determined and driven. They are motivated less by personal income, and more by seeing that the company itself is growing. They feel successful by seeing more people on the payroll, more vans on the road, etc. They know where they want to go and how to get there.

Builders tend to scale their business more quickly, and often end up as leaders of large corporations. The darker side of the Builder is that relationships and roadblocks that get in the way of progress may be deemed as an annoyance. Sometimes, a Builder is viewed as a jerk because they simply don’t feel that the sappy conversation in the office is necessary, and will cut it short.

It’s helpful when others see that this interaction is nothing personal against an individual, but more the DNA of what it takes for the Builder to build. Builders may feel lonely and are often misunderstood, but what they do is vital to all other Entrepreneurial DNA types, so they drive on.


An Opportunist will go forth in business, sniffing out money-making opportunities. They are passionate, and if good work ethic is instilled, they are highly motivated by incentives, and are willing to work their butts off for years without getting a wink of sleep.

Opportunists are positive and willing to put their hand to any task, because they see the pot of gold at the end. They are often the ones who are engaging and relational. Customers love them; they take time to listen to life stories and make people feel liked and valued.

They can end up juggling so many things at once thus lacking focus, that if they look back at their charted income, sometimes it will show they’ve gone forward 2 steps, back 3, forward 2, and back again. That won’t stop them because life is full of opportunity, and they’re ready for the next shiny thing.


A Specialist is one who has learned a particular skill and has become a pro at it. Often they get their entrepreneurial start after working for someone else. After becoming frustrated with how services or products are handled, they choose to break away and do the job their own way. They are dogged and focused. They find their fulfillment in producing a service/product that stands out.

Most Specialists have the same issue: they are amazing at what they do, but they struggle on the business development side. They will run a business and rarely lose a customer due to their quality work, but their business seldom develops beyond a core product or service. A Specialist would do well to either break out of his mold, or to enroll another to help with team building. They often need to be reminded that they can serve more people with their craft if they make more connections.


And then we have the Innovator — the mad scientist. Whether through an “Aha!” moment or iterative improvements, the Innovator is the one who creates something through persistent tinkering at all hours of the day. Not just once, but over and over, they use their creative mind to invent things that can often affect people on a global scale.

The Innovator’s invention will get others excited; friends and family will insist, “Sell it! Get it on the market!” The Innovator tends to be mission-minded and not driven by profit. The invention was designed to improve the lives of humanity, so to take it and try to make a business out of it doesn’t usually motivate them. Innovators often end up hiring family members and will make emotionally-based decisions versus business-building decisions in their efforts to help others.

Frustration builds and they just want to get back to their corner of the world and focus on creating something, rather than building profit from it. An Innovator needs a strong support system to help develop and maintain the business side of getting his product to market.

Which Entrepreneur DNA category sounds most familiar to you?