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Creative Community: What’s Your Builder Type?

Chris Kuenne
 

(Princeton Info) – It’s a new year, and a time for fresh starts in any and all facets of life. Here at U.S. 1, instead of just looking forward, we also looked back at some of the creative thinking we encountered in the past year — new approaches to old problems that might just come in handy in the new year.

We begin with that age-old itch held by entrepreneurs as well as corporate bound executives and newly minted college graduates: starting a business of your own, an enterprise that will work for you as much (or more) than you work for it.

Chris Kuenne knows something about starting and growing a business. The son of a Princeton University economics professor, Kuenne majored in history at the university, Class of 1985, earned an MBA at Harvard in 1989, became a brand manager at Johnson & Johnson, and developed an expertise in market research that enabled him to launch his own company, Rosetta, in 1998. In its first seven years Rosetta, based at the American Metro Center, grew rapidly. In 2011 Kuenne sold the company to Publicis for $575 million.

After two years overseeing the ownership transition at Rosetta, Kuenne was ready to launch another company: Rosemark, a private equity company based at 90 Nassau Street that funds companies that, among other things, meet what Kuenne feels are the “four cornerstones” of growth:

Think big: Focus on a big economic problem for your customers.

Be different: Your product or service has to be highly differentiated, and it has to be scalable — meaning that the product or service has to be repeatable at high volumes so that the business can acquire more customers.

Build a brand; cultivate culture: “The culture, internally, inspires the people. It’s the brand, externally, that inspires the customers,” Kuenne has said.

Measure the value: Kuenne credits management guru Jim Collins for this idea, which is that your product has some sort of “value creation metric” that allows the company to rationalize the investment made by its customers.

But Kuenne knows that growth is not just a result of principles. It also depends on the principals running the business. In 2015, while teaching a course in entrepreneurship at Princeton’s Keller Center, Kuenne met John Danner, another entrepreneur teaching at the center. The two decided to write a book together on how different personality types impact growing enterprises. Kuenne’s old company, Rosetta, created a 100-question survey that was completed by a group of builder CEOs who had achieved at least $3 million in annual revenue and had been in business at least three years. That data was augmented by responses from the Young Presidents’ Organization, the Women Presidents’ Organization, and other professional groups. The data helped Kuenne and Danner categorize the four types of business builders in their new book, “Built for Growth: How Builder Personality Shapes Your Business, Your Team, and Your Ability to Win.”

Published by the Harvard Review Press, the new book identifies four different types of builders: The driver, who is relentless, commercially driven, and highly focused; the explorer, a curious, systems-driven, and dispassionate leader; the crusader, audacious, mission-inspired, and compassionate; and the captain, who is pragmatic, team-enabling, and direct.

While each of the four personality types has strengths and weaknesses that need to be considered as they go about their work, they all have one common goal — enabling a new business to survive and then flourish. Herewith an excerpt from “Built for Growth:”

How This Book Can Help You. We’re not the first authors who seek to understand the phenomenon of building successful businesses from scratch or to understand personality, for that matter. You can find clues to such success in biographies of legendary entrepreneurs — from Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and Larry Ellison to Mary Kay, Arianna Huffington, and Oprah Winfrey. These stories can be fascinating, educational, and even inspiring. You can learn much about what it takes to launch, grow, and sustain a business that way.

This is not a book about the mechanical steps of launching a startup or another venture . . . Lots of other books do that. But great recipes don’t make great restaurants — great chefs do. While each of these books can be useful, they miss the most important element: specifically, who the builder is and how his or her personality engages with the dynamic challenges every entrepreneur faces.

By understanding the gifts and gaps that go along with your Builder Personality, you can better tackle the fundamental challenges of business survival and growth to scale. We’ll offer you practical suggestions for how you can become a stronger builder, using the patterns of success and failure of each Personality in addressing the various growth dynamics.

Builders of new businesses work inside and outside existing corporations. We examine both types of builders. The role the Builder Personality Type plays is similar no matter where a venture is being pursued . . .

If you’re thinking of becoming a builder, we can help you learn the patterns of success that lead to achieving scale. You can easily determine which Builder Personality is most like yours and how to benefit from your counterparts’ hard-earned insights in handling the challenges ahead.

If you’re already working in, or considering joining, a new venture team, we’ll help you understand the builder at its center and figure out how to collaborate most effectively with his or her growth agenda. And if you’re a funder or sponsor of new ventures, you’ll see how to spot and support each Builder Personality to improve his or her odds of growing a business of meaningful scale.

We know, again from personal experience, that change is difficult. So the advice you’ll find in these pages will range from easier mechanical approaches that enhance your natural strengths to changes that are far more difficult because they may require confronting some of your deepest misgivings or even fears. You can then decide which strategy is right for you.

While building a new business from scratch can be intensely lonely, our message is you are not alone. You can take comfort and wisdom from those builders — famous or not — who share your Personality Type, and you can learn from them. Likewise, other Builder Personality Types can show you how they leverage their strengths and buffer their weaknesses — insights that may help you as well.

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