Immigration and Entrepreneurship



Immigration is tough. Nobody argues that. The same goes for entrepreneurship. One needs a combination of traits to become successful as an immigrant and as an entrepreneur. My personal, unscientific research tells me that immigrant entrepreneurs are a special bunch. The traits that make a successful immigrant are very similar to the traits that make up a successful entrepreneur.

In her last book, tiger mom Amy Chua says that there are groups that rise and fall in the success scale, which invalidates any idea of “model minorities”. I agree with this argument 100%. However, she continues to say that there are “cultural forces at work”, what I do not agree.

When we measure success of immigrant groups, we are dealing with a skewed sample. No matter which country the immigrant comes from, there was a very tight filter selecting this individual – the immigration filter. In Canada, specifically, this filter is very selective. According to Statistics Canada, more than half have university education. Of those 25 to 44 years old, or, in other words, the prime age group for employment, 69% had a university degree. That’s more than three times the average of the Canadian population in that age group. In addition, many reported the objective to further their education in Canada.

It is common to find among immigrants a high degree of tenacity. This is a key trait for people in the situation of “starting over”, facing adversity and uncertainty. Entrepreneurs also have this trait in high degree, according to an analysis of 23 research studies published under the title of “The big five personality dimensions and entrepreneurial status”. Like immigrants, entrepreneurs have to be able to push through obstacles for several years before succeeding.

Entrepreneurs also need to have tolerance for ambiguity. It takes a long time to acquire the cultural clues that a native learns over the dinner table. Simple things like shaking hands or looking into someone’s eyes, common in Canada and US, are difficult to some Asian immigrants. As it is avoid touching other people and respecting a bigger personal space may be to immigrants with Latin background. I still remember when I was young and unaware about cultural differences, I was at a car race with an American friend when we met several other Brazilians and we started hugging and kissing… He was really out of place! However, for us our behaviour was normal…

Possibly one of the traits that is more predominant in immigrants and entrepreneurs alike is vision. No matter how much research and planning one does, there is always a lot of uncertainty. Most of the times the only path left is a leap of faith! As an entrepreneur, the immigrant has to sell his vision to family, friends, future employers or partners. For both groups it is the vision that drives someone to leave everything behind and start all over again in a strange land. Immigrants, like entrepreneurs, face many naysayers because they can see the future and, more importantly, make it happen.

Two other traits are common to immigrant and entrepreneurs. Self-confidence and adaptability. Self-confidence fuels adaptability. Both immigrant and entrepreneurs need to be able to see what is not working and be confident that they can adapt, change course like a river inexorably flowing to its final destination!



Jose Cid is a Business Intelligence Consultant, Educator and Coach. Throughout his life he has been helping people inside and outside of the work environment. His motto can be translated into a simple equation: Knowledge + Intelligence + Action = Power ©. Please visit for other articles and to know more about the services offered.

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