Every time she opens her mouth to speak, Michelle Duval has some very profound things to say about success & failure and the human side of entrepreneurship. As the founder & CEO of Fingerprint for Success, a cutting-edge profiling system that assesses motivations and attitudes based on over 20 years of research, Michelle can tell you which of these have been found to be crucial in successful entrepreneurship and business-building.
Fingerprint for Success, unlike many popular other tools on the market, is not a personality profiling system that fits people into a defined box or 'type.' It measures 48 different attitudes resulting in a highly unique result, and helps entrepreneurs find out their own unique strengths and benchmark themselves against some of the biggest brains in business. During her keynote at Techsauce Global Summit 2017, Michelle told us what they’ve found distinguishes successful entrepreneurs from the rest of the working population – those whose businesses don’t just survive, but flourish – and many of which go on to successfully scale across the region or globally.
Michelle: In 2002, I also co-founded a second business. It was an international coach-training company based on a self-actualizing coaching methodology. We wrote two books in the field and developed specific models that helped people to go from good to great, which is a completely different psychology than any other type of psychology. That led me to being able to train and work with people in 45 different countries but spend about 3.5 months a year traveling. Incidentally, it also led to a 20-year study.
While I was working with these groups of people, I started to notice that just like the politicians, celebrities, athletes and other people that I’d had the honor of working with, these entrepreneurs who really made it successfully had a whole lot of patterns that I started to notice. This led to a world-first study. I didn’t set out to be a researcher, but I’ve become a world-first researcher. It ended up being a 15-year qualitative study from all of those case studies, and then we spent 2 years doing a quantitative study.
Now, we thought was that this was a really fascinating experience, and it also allowed us to measure, very uniquely, something that has never been done before. We started to measure the attitudes in the workplace of these actual business owners and founders – something you might also refer to as a filter that filters your leadership style; we could also call it a “focus-area,” where you prefer and have a bias to focus on certain things. Other people might refer to it as an interest. So some of you have particular parts of business that you’re interested in, and some of you might refer to it as your leadership style.
The point I want to make here is we’re not measuring personality, because the reality is psychology has moved on from personality theory. You’re not a type, you don’t fit in a box, and as you all know, entrepreneurs certainly don’t fit into a box. What makes this study world-breaking is that we were measuring your attitude and your focus in business – measuring what you attend to and what’s important to you.
The point I want to make here is we’re not measuring personality, because the reality is psychology has moved on from personality theory. As you all know, entrepreneurs certainly don’t fit into a box.
Michelle: We weren’t satisfied with just that data. That data alone was really fascinating, and even though we already had 20 years behind that, we spent another four-and-a-half years taking the data and applying it to various different types of entrepreneurs and business builders and staying to track them annually over a 4.5 year period to start to see what difference this was making to their businesses in terms of their success and progress, traction, and most importantly, them actually being able to improve their results from when they actually first started.
And, as I said, it was groundbreaking.
“This is the counterintuitive part for those of you who love your MBAs,” she shares. “The correlation was actually really low, and guess what – if it was any higher than low, it was correlated with failure. So, successful entrepreneurs have a low focus to detail. Those of you who are investors and angel investors, you already know this. We can now measure it.”
“Again, like our detail, again like our procedures, successful founders have it very low in contrast to everybody else; they don’t like structure, they don’t like planning – everything that you were told in your MBA, throw it out the door for an early stage venture.
“We found that a very small amount of structure was important; there was some, but if it was higher than that amount, it was correlated with failure again. So, as you can see, detailed procedures & structure are the nemesis to an early stage venture in terms of our data and critical findings.”
If we look at the other distinctions, there other critical things the Fingerprint for Success researchers looked at that distinguish the difference between those who start a venture and those who go on to scale them. Michelle shares that this is very often where the errors actually occur, because it’s where the leadership lens fails to change.
Remember the structure and planning that she mentioned above, or lack thereof? It’s not surprising that founders who last in the business know when to implement more structure and planning – In fact, an increase in structure of more than 1/3 is going to be needed at a key point to sustain business growth:
Michelle: So as we can see, these are just a few of the critical insights to come. What is the impact of these insights for us? Whether you’re an investor, leading an accelerator or considering a transition, or an entrepreneur building your business rapidly and looking for that edge, what we know is – and it’s surprising – Is that two-thirds of the world’s population now actually believe that a career in entrepreneurship is a good thing. The same research also shows that in the next 3 years, 1 billion people are going to start their first venture. What most of us know is that 60% of those businesses will fail in those same 3 years. As we know, 98% overall will go on to fail.
What keeps us awake at night is that 44% of those overall failures are actually due to poor entrepreneurial leadership. At Fingerprint for Success, that’s not a statistic that we can even bear to see. As a result of our studies, what you can start do now is – just like you do with data analytics & tracking in your business – you can do the same around yourself, your founders & importantly, the entrepreneurial spirit within your team.
Most importantly, you can start to differentiate the phase of business that you’re at, or those that you’re mentoring, coaching or investing in, and you can assure that they’ve already got their blind spots covered.
And you can also start to use data to now design & engineer higher performing teams. We’ve told you about some of the samples that we’ve done; you’ve got the same ability now to use some of the algorithms that we’ve created to do the very same thing for your high growth venture or for your own portfolio and for your own region that you actually operate within – that’s where the big opportunity is.
We’ve turned this into a platform to make it universally accessible to the entire world. We released a white paper last year titled “Can entrepreneurial success be predicted?” where you can get many more insights into what we just shared with you now. We are on the hunt to be able to support ecosystems globally to be able to build up your own data sets so that everybody can benefit from these critical insights.
Fingerprint for Success has started to build up a data set for Thailand so that entrepreneurs in this country can start to have their own samples and utilize a data set tailored to this region. Read more about Michelle’s work & Fingerprint for Success in this article, or visit their website to see how you can start to utilize data & analytics toward more successful teams & leadership.