5 Reasons Engineers Make Good Business Owners

July 24, 2019

My editor, Mark Rosenzweig, sent me a link to a video that touts five reasons engineers make good business owners. Recorded by Marc Frankel, owner of Island Watch in Long Island, New York, the video points out the characteristics of nearly every engineer I know -- including my editor, a chemical engineer. I’m not sure if my Mark identified with mechanical engineer Marc because of points one through five or the fact that he’s a fellow New Yorker and they both received their engineering degrees from The Cooper Union, New York. Whatever the reason, here are Marc’s five reasons engineers make good business owners (you can watch the video below for his in-depth reasoning):

  1. Engineers are excellent problem solvers -- They have the mindset to step back and see the best way to solve problems.
  2. Engineers are risk adverse -- The failure rate will be low. Slow and steady wins the race.
  3. Engineers are frugal -- They want to put the money in their pockets immediately.
  4. Engineers are great at efficiency -- They can see how to make things faster and cheaper.
  5. Engineers have an inherent ability to understand systems -- They can analyze and understand any system regardless of industry.

I'd like to add a sixth item to that list: Engineers are excellent at constructive criticism and nudging. How do I know? Because the editor/chemical engineer in my life told me so. And he proves it nearly every week. I'm not complaining. He often makes my work better because of it. And his nagging -- oops, I mean nudging -- comes from the heart. He's like my East Coast uncle who only wants the best for me. 

Uncle Mark pointed out that not all engineers agree that they make good business owners. One commenter on the video below, Randy Novick, added his own list to prove his point:

Okay. Five reasons engineers make lousy business owners:

  1. Engineers frequently lack people or soft/social skills
  2. Engineers frequently lack verbal communications skills
  3. Engineers are frequently unable to work in grey areas that lack absolutes
  4. Engineers lack business accumen -- marketing, advertising, finance, sales
  5. Engineers find it difficult or impossible to make decisions with little or no data

I was a software engineer for 13 years, and I presently manage a team of 18 engineers.
This game is fun!

Whether you agree with Marc or Randy, one thing is certain: The world needs engineers to help our lives and the world run more efficiently. And to nudge us if we falter...

Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor. She is a fan of engineers, nudging, entrepreneurs and poking fun at her editor. You can email her at [email protected]. P.S. Uncle Mark says you should take note of the clock in the video above. You're welcome.