What Does an Entrepreneur Look Like to You?
I have a little bit of beef with the word “entrepreneur”, not so much the word’s literal meaning but the general perception of it. Although, one could argue words only have meaning in their use and perception, so maybe I’m here to reclaim it. Either way I am pissed! Well, not really, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. There are a handful who ‘get it’, but to the majority when I ask them “what is an entrepreneur to you?” I’m hardly satisfied with the answer. It’s one of those words that’s become an enigma, it seem to mean many things, but I don’t want it to, because ‘properly’ used it describes me, my skillset and what I want to be when I eventually grow up perfectly.
The Dictionary Definition
The above definition is severely lacking in my opinion. This definition does not really describe an entrepreneur, it mostly describes a business owner. Many business owners are indeed entrepreneurs, but not all, and not all entrepreneurs are business owners either. Vicky who runs a local plumbing business, may have some entrepreneurial traits, but is better defined as a business owner as her main skill-set is running a plumbing business. Not that that’s a bad thing or lesser, quite the contrary, it’s essential we have business owners like Vicky for a vibrant economy to function and provide competition, it’s just different. A ‘business owner’ and an entrepreneur can work extremely well when paired because of their complimentary skills.
Beyond the dictionary, you also have the public perception of what an entrepreneur is. This is the other end of the spectrum from ‘business owner’. Just go on instagram and search the hashtag. You’ll be treated by a wall of douchbaggery of the highest order. Between the occasional Bill Gates quote, the feed is full of snake oil salesmen, trying to get you in their ‘sales funnel’ to teach you how to get rich like them (hoping you won’t see that they’re making the best use of the bank of mum and dad and not nearly as wealthy as they appear). They’re the type to post pictures of themselves in front of a Lamborghini, boarding a private jet or getting out of a pool in Dubai, need I go on? You know the ones I’m talking about. People selling you ‘motivational’ business courses which are synonymous for: I don’t have practical advice so I’ll just ‘empower’ you. That, despite being the images we see, is also not an entrepreneur.
For posterity, I also don’t think all entrepreneurs do what they do purely “in hope of profit”. More it is the meaning that comes through creating and extreme ownership that drives entrepreneurs through the darkest and leanest of times. Often the start of most entrepreneur’s journey’s is a quagmire of financial scarcity and insecurity in lieu of a stable pay-cheque and it can last a long time. Perhaps for that reason, most entrepreneurs would eventually like to see the fruits of their labour and be suitably rewarded for their hardship and initiative, but it is not the primary motivating factor. For example, entrepreneurs like Tim Ferris could make A LOT of easy money by taking a position within a large corporation, but they don’t do it because profit or money is not the sole motivation or driving factor. Most successful entrepreneurs I’ve read will advise that being motivated by money will ultimately lead to failure or limit your ceiling. So… how’d you like them apples Oxford Dictionary? Come at me bro!
Go on then Smarty Pants, What is an Entrepreneur Then?
None of these definitions contain anything about creativity or innovation. So first of all I’d need to add that to my ingredients list. A business owner is concerned primarily with the administration of that business and ensuring its smooth function while also strategizing for business growth. An entrepreneur on the other hand, usually isn’t so concerned with the day-to-day running of a business, (although it is often still necessary and within their skillset), they are involved primarily with innovation on all fronts. Seeking out new business, taking risks, reinventing current ways of doing business and typically operates in a lean, fast-acting fashion. They are lateral thinkers than turn ideas into reality through creative means.
CEO’s, for the record, I find can be anywhere between business owner and entrepreneur depending on their strengths, and different CEO’s may need to be hired/fired for different periods in a company’s life cycle. Richard Branson for example is a famously entrepreneurial CEO, he spends most of his time creating value and exploring new ideas, he delegates much of running the Virgin Group businesses to others.
But what does an entrepreneur create? They don’t spend their time making macaroni art (or do they? Siri take a note; macaroni art as a business) no, they’re highly motivated by creating value for a business, especially when resources are limited. This is where their multitude of skills come in. An entrepreneur is a Swiss army knife of skills and can deliver value or provide utility using any one of their tools at any given time and are able to adapt quickly to changing situations by whipping out a new tool (Ay! Not that kind of tool!).
An entrepreneur with high empathy traits may feel in tune enough with an audience to come up with innovative marketing ideas, bringing more customers to a business and develop products to help other businesses achieve the same results. Likewise, an entrepreneur that’s more analytical minded may produce value by being able see patterns in data that lead to a better website that produces more sales. Elon Musk is an engineer minded entrepreneur who creates value by coming up with innovative ways to approach the engineering process, most engineers think him fully mad until they see the results he can produce. This also means an entrepreneur doesn’t have to be a business owner themselves, if given sufficient freedom within a business they can work to launch new products and services to add value or simply add value to the spaces they’re given. An entrepreneur is always adding to their tool kit, especially skills in contrasting areas that give them a wide net of knowledge to cast over any situation.
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
- Richard Branson
Lastly, it seems necessary that most (good) entrepreneurs take extreme ownership of situations. They do not shrink back from their failures, instead they embrace them and mine them for value. They will willingly put themselves in high-risk scenarios because they know that’s where the most learning and thus most value can be derived. They take risks. As much as one can be a maverick from behind a desk or in a meeting room, entrepreneurs earn the moniker.
This is typically why it’s difficult when entrepreneurs work in corporate structures and we’re used to seeing them running their own businesses. They need time and high levels of trust, with a lot of slack on the line. Many corporations have failed to adapt to this way of working, however, if they can harness the power of their internal entrepreneurs and hold on tight, they will be rewarded.
So, putting that all together here’s the Cameron Readman dictionary definition:
A self-driven individual who has developed a skillset that enables them to be a source for creating, developing and producing new ideas, services, products or businesses, while taking on much of the risk and responsibility for doing so and reaping the rewards.
What do we think? Too jazzy? That’s what I’m shooting for in my career anyways, and what I’d like people to see when they read the word entrepreneur on my profile. What would your definition be? Perhaps you have a better term?
This article was written by Cameron Readman. If you’d like to know more or receive notifications for future articles, please head over to the Website and subscribe at the bottom of the page!