Are entrepreneurs born or made?

O’Brien reveals one of the secrets to success

“One category of people that I really admire are mavericks – because they are different,” said Denis O’Brien, in comments widely reported in the UK media this week along with research findings about entrepreneurship.

“[Entrepreneurs] look at things with different eyes, see solutions no one else can and extraordinary opportunities in what others see as ordinary. If you are one of those people – stay that way.

“Don’t conform – and don’t let anyone try to force you. Entrepreneurs and leaders all have a special chip in their brains that makes them what they are.”

The comments appear to have been released in recent days as part of findings promoted in Britain by Professional Academy, a provider of business training services. Its partners include Digicel, O'Brien's Caribbean telco.

O’Brien actually made the comments more than two-and-a-half years ago, however, in a speech in Jamaica to students of the University of the West Indies, as he received an honorary doctorate.

The full text of the speech gives an interesting insight into the mind of the State’s most successful, but also among its most controversial, entrepreneurs.

“The reality is that if you can count to ten, you can be a successful business entrepreneur,” O’Brien said.

The businessman told the students that “at the start of every year, I sit and write down 12 to 15 objectives for myself – broken into personal learning, personal reinvention – and a number of business goals...

“We all have to keep reinventing ourselves to stay relevant ... If you have that piece of paper in your back pocket, [Get] it out every month and review your performance against it. It’s like having a compass in the middle of a cyclone.”

He also imparted another nugget of wisdom: “In looking to develop yourselves – no matter what walk of life you choose – you need to find a way to stand out.”

Whatever else O’Brien has done, he has certainly done that.