Why is there reluctance to say, I am an entrepreneur? I’ve been asked that question many times. Heck, I’ve asked that question of myself on more than one occasion. It seems, at times we’re prouder to call ourselves, Founder or CEO or to say, I’m a business owner. Why is that?
Are those titles more respectful than, entrepreneur? Yet, we hear of late, we’re in an entrepreneurial economy. So, is that a bad thing or a good thing, and especially if we have a hard time fully admitting to entrepreneurship? Or should we just be entrepreneurial in how we approach our work, whatever that truly means?
Are we claiming to be in an entrepreneurial economy to justify the disappearance of the lifelong career at one company and this is just a way to say we need to create and prove ourselves over and over again, and forget the gold watch?
Back to the reference of being an entrepreneur… Is there a stigma of being a dreamer, always looking for something better, bigger, faster as opposed to what some believe is mundane, repetitive work with the security of a paycheck? Often, I hear it’s mostly due to yesterday’s immigrant mindset of being thankful to just have a job, yet it’s that same immigrant mindset that is the epitome of entrepreneurship.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs
We are living our fears.
Actually, I believe it’s because of fear — fear of failure, fear of what other people think, fear of the unknown, fear of the what if, fear of starting over, fear of change… But it’s when those fears are hit head-on and the adrenaline rush of success far outweighs those fears because you know, deep in your heart that you have a deeply ingrained talent that can and will make a difference.
Does that mean failures aren’t possible? Hell no, but it’s working through those failures, those blips, those aberrations that provide experience and resiliency to improve and innovate to make the next step, the next task, the next venture successful. That is entrepreneurship. And it’s when I don’t consider what I do as entrepreneurship, is when failure mostly occurs. Conversely, it’s when I focus on what I do as an entrepreneur, complete with that thinking outside the box and failure is not an option perspective, and when focused more on results as opposed to opinion of others, THAT is when success mostly occurs.
Yes, I’m an entrepreneur. My focus will stay as such as it is not only good for me, but also for my family and for those that rely on me to help them achieve their wishes, hopes and dreams! Why? Because I believe in possibilities, as without them, there are none.
Entrepreneurs are from all walks of life. They have different levels of skill and education. Some take more risks than others, but risk is there, nonetheless. Of course, there are many, many other characteristics and traits, and many combinations thereof.
So, really, what is an entrepreneur? What does the term mean? Are there varying degrees of being an entrepreneur – different classes, different levels?
These were some of the questions I have asked over the years in various LinkedIn groups and podcast interviews, and also in impromptu interactions. Below are some of the insights and perspective from a wide cross-section of individuals (entrepreneurs, corporate executives, small business owners, and even a number of restaurant servers, retail clerks, construction workers, and high school & college students).
What is the definition of an entrepreneur?
In a few cases, the definition provided included a specific word ahead of ‘entrepreneur’ almost as if to prequalify the definition. Doing some research, here are actual definitions of the shared terms:
1) Born Entrepreneur: Somebody that from an early age was active in earning money in exchange for products or services. These people never considered becoming an employee.
2) Must-preneur: Somebody who through chance or circumstance sees no other option than to become an entrepreneur. This might be due anything from to age to an utter lack of job opportunities
3) Opportunistic Entrepreneur: Somebody who sees an opportunity to start a business but has a contract to provide services to their current employer. E.g., Head of IT starting his own company to provide services to their previous employer
4) Executive Entrepreneur: Somebody who has reached the top of an executive ladder and views starting their own business as a way to progress further. They usually have a decent amount of money saved up and an extensive business network to tap into.
5) Family Entrepreneur: Start a business in order to spend more time with family. Lifestyle is the main motivator.
6) Mumpreneur: A mother who sees no other way of earning a flexible income whilst raising her family. Usually runs a highly efficient business.”
A couple of definitions seemed to be well thought out apparently having run through their minds before…
“An entrepreneur is a person who will see the embryonic seeds of an opportunity well in advance of others. Others will eventually only see a lost opportunity. An entrepreneur will see risk as an opportunity. Others will see opportunity as a risk. An entrepreneur will look forward to the challenges and hard work that an opportunity will bring. Others will only see an uphill struggle. An entrepreneur will continue to work at that opportunity irrespective of setbacks, make mistakes, pick themselves up and learn from their mistakes. Others will give up the fight when the going gets tough. An entrepreneur will work outside of the normal business framework in order to feel free and unrestricted while others will have a need to build an even stronger framework in order just to feel safe. When the opportunity is finally realized, an entrepreneur will not say ‘I told you so’. An entrepreneur will say to themselves not others, ‘I knew I could do it’. Others will say, ‘I wish I had done that’.”
“I think that we all, at one time or another, have what we believe is a great idea, the difference is that the entrepreneur will seize it, grab the ball and run with it, where most people will look back and say: I woulda, coulda, shoulda; the difference is implementation and execution. When I was a youngster, I used to ride horses a lot and the first lesson you are taught is when you get thrown off of the horse, you immediately get back on, for if you don’t, you will have a fear of doing so for the rest of your life. I would agree with you that being a business owner does not necessarily mean that you are an entrepreneur; most people who buy a franchise are looking for security (avoidance of risk), a structured environment and direction as to what to do and how to do it.”
Personal experience and emotions played into a number of responses. Here are a few that were definitely very heartfelt:
“For me- it was a burning desire to create something that would change the world. Simply owning a business was not my motivating factor.”
“I was tired of being told how to run a business by people that had no clue how to manage people or a business. When you get to that point you just say screw it, I am doing my own thing. You are never alone either. surround yourself with people that are positive and are open to you sharing ideas at a much higher level.”
“For me, it was an opportunity to offer a service that my former employer would not or could not provide. I also got tired off working my butt of to benefit someone else. Owning my own business has given me the opportunity to spend more time with my family and to provide them financially.”
“An entrepreneur is someone who doesn’t like following rules. Someone who wants to eventually make them. For me, I became an entrepreneur because I was sick and tired of working for a bunch of idiots. These goofballs were making way too much money…and I wasn’t. So, I took a risk. Joined my dad’s franchise consulting firm in 2001. Now, I’m a solo entrepreneur. And the King of the Castle. It’s been a fun ride. There are several more roads for me to cruise on. Join me.”
“The more I sold, management would adjust my comp plan to lower my pay. I got burned out on them fundamentally not getting that the more sold the better off everyone would be. So, I became a competitor starting with a folding chair, table and legal pad. Now I have lost my table and chair! Just kidding, I have never looked back.”
There were a few negative and somewhat cynical responses. Two that I remember quite well:
“I thought entrepreneur was French for unemployed. Can’t we just be business owners?” and “I always think of an entrepreneur as someone who can’t find or keep a job and justifies his existence by saying he is an entrepreneur.”
And here are a couple of my own comments from these exchanges…
“I believe the derogatory comments have been increasing because so many individuals lost jobs during economic downturns and then decided, well, I’ll be an entrepreneur. It really doesn’t work that way for true entrepreneurship. For them, it’s about the money. It’s about survival. It’s about replacing a job! That is not entrepreneurship.”
“Entrepreneurship, to me is looking to make a difference. Looking to change the way things are done. Sure, money is great, but money should not be the only result of your actions and success and certainly not the primary force from the beginning. Think about the true entrepreneurs of the world… Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban and of course, there are many more. Quitting school, operating out of garages, pushing to be leading edge with something different, disagreeing with the way industry leaders were doing things, and the list goes on – it wasn’t about the money or even the thought of riches to come. It was about change. It was about making a difference. It was about taking risk when they didn’t even think there was risk involved because they knew they would succeed. It was their conviction to perfection.”
Entrepreneurs do exist at many different levels and there are many within small business today, and the number is growing. As such, I’ll share this academic definition:
An entrepreneur is one that wants to make a difference, doing so by motivating and encouraging change all the while being aware of risk but challenging risk with clear perspective and innovation, never losing sight of their goals and the always driving forward even in the face of setbacks and failure.
Per Merriam-Webster: entrepreneur en· tre· pre· neur | \ ˌän-trə-p(r)ə-ˈnər , -ˈn(y)u̇r, ˌäⁿn- \ Definition of entrepreneur : one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.
Per Investopedia: An entrepreneur is an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards. The process of setting up a business is known as entrepreneurship. The entrepreneur is commonly seen as an innovator, a source of new ideas, goods, services, and business/or procedures.
Study.com has an interesting course with an animated video about the definition of an entrepreneur. Take a few minutes to preview HERE.
There is even a 10-minute video for children about what it means to be an entrepreneur. Definitely share this with your children or grandchildren. You can view it HERE.
Let’s keep the discussion alive. It’s too important a topic not to. So, what do you think? What is an entrepreneur? After all, being an entrepreneur is difficult enough without being misunderstood!
In business circles we frequently hear and make reference to “entrepreneurial spirit.” It’s this spirit that drives an individual to taking risks, sometimes calculated, but not always. “Spirit” is often associated with “free.” Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airways fame, among other successful business ventures, would definitely be considered a risk taker, an entrepreneur and free-spirited.
It’s often been said that individuals explore franchising due to it being less risky than starting a business from scratch as the franchise comes complete with a proven business system. The old adage about being in business for yourself, but not by yourself, creates a nice, warm sense of security that a franchise can ultimately provide.
Minimized risk. Proven system. Sense of security. Could you really see Sir Richard as a franchisee? So, if Sir Richard Branson epitomizes the true entrepreneurial spirit, my question remains, “Are franchisees entrepreneurs?”
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