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The Over-rated trait of “business acumen” in entrepreneurship

Gautam Sinha
4 min readDec 20, 2020


When I was growing up (in a bureaucratic household) I used to hear stuff like “Mr. X has got a great business acumen” or stuff like “ We can never run a business as we don’t have the “nose” for business like so and so “ community does”.

I grew up believing that there was something called a “business gene” which has somehow missed my cumulative gene pool (No one in my direct gene pool for the last 100 years had got into business) and therefore I had to join the government (now that was certainly in my gene pool).

When I broke tradition and started a business with my own money and no real “business plan” apart from wanting to get RICH and break the “middle class” barrier in 1996, I took the first step of challenging this “acumen” stuff that I had heard about for the last decade or so.

Post struggling with success and failure with 2 start ups for 4 years, I finally hit upon my business calling and sold my 3rd business within 6 years of starting it.

After having done that and reached what I can now call the 1st base of entrepreneurial success, I have still been baffled by this “business acumen” or “entrepreneurial gene” concept.

So what made me start a company at the age of 25? Where did I get my gene pool from? I mean I am supposed to belong to the “no business sense” part of the evolutionary cycle! Steven Pinkar’s book “how the mind works” asks us a very simple question. If we meet an alien, how would we figure out that the alien is “intelligent” (this intelligence is not to be confused with IQ)?

He goes on to describe that the only 2 things that this alien should exhibit is that

  • He should act in a rational manner which means that he should not jump of cliffs, bumps into rocks while walking which would tell us that “self preservation” is on this beings charter.
  • He should act based on a certain purpose. i.e, if he were to jump off cliffs then it should be for the attainment of some goal.

In a nutshell, here I quote Steven Pinkar

intelligence, then, is the ability to attain goals in the face of obstacles by means of decisions based on rational (truth obeying) rules

WOW! If I was not reading a book about “how the mind works”, I would have easily explained an entrepreneur by the same sentence. What hit me was the further explanation that “intelligent” life as we understand is basically an interplay between attaining of a “goal” by “taking decisions” which are based on our “beliefs’.

So now I started questioning as to why anyone would not become an entrepreneur as the above sentence or definition (of all intelligent life as we humans are classified under) told me that all of us are in the same category of wanting to achieve our goals against obstacles by taking decisions based on our beliefs.

Then it hit me.. it is about “beliefs”! That is the only thing that separates an entrepreneur (and here I am defining it in a broader sense to include everyone who follows an ‘unconventional” path) from fellow “intelligent beings”.

At the end of the day, there are some people whose belief in either themselves or in the adversity/lack of opportunity around them doesn’t allow them to go down this road of being an entrepreneur. It is not about any business sense/nose/gene pool but only about “belief” or if I can sound slightly more dramatic then I would use the word “faith”.

As I look back at the last 16 years of meandering between success, failure, super success, disaster and confusion the only thing which stands out as a common thread is “belief”. If I were to isolate only one attribute that an entrepreneur needs to have then this one would be it.

We all live our lives based on certain beliefs and for a lot of us these “beliefs” stop us from living our dreams. I am not suggesting that every person who starts a business will succeed as along with belief there is a hard practicality of cash flow.

However, there is no doubt in my mind that if for some reason that cash flow can be “provided for” then there should be no reason why a person will not succeed in his/her endeavor provided there is unshakeable belief and the person conforms to the above definition of an “intelligent being”.

Think about how many times you thought that you were good at something (belief) and then held back or introduced diffidence in yourself because of what someone else told you or what you read in some book. This shook your belief and you allowed doubt to creep into your thought process. This is the beginning of the end . Suddenly you stop focusing on that “one” thing and obviously your performance drops and then the self fulfilling prophesy of “defeat” kicks in and by the end of it you feel that person or that book was right and actually you would have never done well if you had followed your dream!

We spend approximately 35–40 years of the most productive part of our lives engaging in some “economic activity”. What a waste it would turn out to be if we were to fritter it away because we didn’t follow through on our beliefs about ourselves.

Next time you are fully awake, ask yourself “what do I believe I am the best at?” That would pretty much give you an indicator of your next business idea!



Gautam Sinha

CEO & Co-founder, CBREX — A Global Recruiter Exchange