Many people brand themselves “Entrepreneurs” these days. However, introducing myself as an Entrepreneur does not make me one, no more than introducing myself as an astronaut, makes me one.
The dictionary defines an entrepreneur as "a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk”*.
There are three main points underlined here:
1. An entrepreneur organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business
Entrepreneurs are business administrators – they organise and manage. They are not wishful thinkers or people who want to make a quick buck by doing little or nothing; they are action takers. Managing an enterprise or a business involves managing a range of activities; managing people, business finances and other resources required to create and develop a sustainable enterprise. This is what entrepreneurs do.
2. An entrepreneur takes considerable initiative
The word Initiative comes from initiate – to start something new. But not just any initiative, they take considerable initiative. Entrepreneurs usually change the status quo. They imagine a new idea, a new way of doing things and they take active steps towards making this a reality.
3. An entrepreneur takes risks
They take risks and are willing to put in the effort required to mitigate these risks and achieve results. Risks could be financial or personal. Many entrepreneurs put up their homes as collateral for a business idea, some would leave a good-paying employment and others would move to an unknown country because they believe strongly in their idea. Whatever the risk, it is always calculated and based on a strong conviction in their idea.
This tells me that being an entrepreneur is not a role that can or should be taken lightly.
There are many theories on entrepreneurship. I particularly like the study by the Austrian-born economist, Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950), who was probably the first scholar to provide insight on entrepreneurship. He says that Entrepreneurs are not necessarily motivated by profit but regard it as a measure of achievement or success.
For true entrepreneurs, the motivation is to change the status quo and to make a difference in their society and their economy. The famous inventor Thomas Edison said: “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others. I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.” That is a true Entrepreneur talking.
Following years of study, the economics Schumpeter discovered 4 key things about Entrepreneurs:
- They greatly value self-reliance – they look inwardly to the resource they have and find ways to maximise its potential
- They strive for distinction through excellence – as mentioned, they are not motivated by profit, but by the desire to perfect their invention
- They are highly optimistic (otherwise nothing would be undertaken). This does not mean that entrepreneurs have not failed. All entrepreneurs carry war wounds from failed businesses. What makes them stand out is their optimism, their tenacity and their drive to keep going despite the failures. Their focus on achievement and societal benefit which is long-term keeps them going
- They always favour challenges of medium risk (neither too easy, nor ruinous). Risks come with doing business. Entrepreneurs are risk takers and take “calculated” risks. They are willing to give-up something, knowing that their vision to change society and communities has a much bigger advantage.
Why is all this important? What does it matter if every aspiring business person called themselves entrepreneurs? My desire is to see more real entrepreneurs in our society: not wish-enpreneurs (wishful thinkers) or cop-enpreneurs (people who simply replicate solutions that exist) or hop-enpreneurs (those who hop from one business idea to another without any real conviction and just hope that the business works).
I would like to develop a group of people who are not motivated by profit, but who really want to make a difference to their society and their economy. People who have an innovative idea and are ready to roll-up their sleeves, commit their time and effort to see this idea transformed into reality.
So, the next time you introduce yourself as an entrepreneur, remember what great responsibility you are committing to: to be one of those people who will make a long-term impact on our society now and in the future.
*Definition from www.dictionary.com/browse/entrepreneur
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