Is Successful Entrepreneurship Nature, or Nurture?

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC

Bill Murphy Jr.'s new book, "The Intelligent Entrepreneur," details the experiences -- warts and all -- of three Harvard Business School grads who went on to become successful entrepreneurs. The underlying lesson of this book is encouraging for aspiring physician business owners: Entrepreneurship can be learned.

As a recipient of a copy of a new book from its publisher Henry Holt and Co., I was intrigued to plunge into "The Intelligent Entrepreneur: How Three Harvard Business School Graduates Learned the 10 Rules of Successful Entrepreneurship," by Bill Murphy Jr.

While that subtitle is a mouthful, the book itself proved a most engaging read. My one criterion for reading enjoyment (rather than duty) is that I feel compelled to pick up the book and read right before going to bed -- and this book fit the bill!

The author Bill Murphy Jr., an entrepreneur, writer, former military officer, lawyer and Washington Post reporter, interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs who had graduated from the Harvard Business School classes of 1997, 1998 and 1999. His goal was to seek out the themes, insider secrets and even personality traits of those entrepreneurs whose startup businesses proved to have staying power.

He wanted to learn, and then reveal, his "rules of success." The three criteria he used to identify the three entrepreneurs who make up the exciting story element of the book are:

• the individuals had to have been a proven success

• their businesses had to have endured over a five- to 10-year period, not just one to two years of startup

• the entrepreneurs had to be willing to open up and expose all: "The good, the bad and the downright ugly." He wanted to know about them and their businesses -- warts and all!

Using the case method of teaching, for which Harvard Business School is famous, Murphy intertwines chapters recounting these three stories, with chapters discussing the 10 rules he extrapolated from the stories and his many interviews.

I have been impressed enough by my own experience, and that of the many people I have interviewed for my "Conversations with Trailblazers" podcast series, to recognize that there are shared lessons underpinning entrepreneurial success.

These 10 rules are worth exploring in a series of blog posts. The underlying lesson of these messages is perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the book — that entrepreneurship can be learned. Over the next five posts, I plan to explore two rules at a time, from the book.

Stay tuned for more.