What is an entrepreneur | Business Navigate

What is an entrepreneur

Defining what is an entrepreneur is like herding cats

We are often asked the question “what is an entrepreneur” and, as if they are one and the same thing, information on “how to make money fast”.

Interesting questions and like so many things in life the answer is “it depends”. Traditional media have attempted to define entrepreneur as:

  • “The capacity and willingness to develop, organize and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. The most obvious example of entrepreneurship is the starting of new businesses”[1]
  • “The process of starting a business or other organization. The entrepreneur develops a business model, acquires the human and other required resources, and is fully responsible for its success or failure”[2]
  • “Define, invest, build, repeat”[3]

But is this right? Is this really true reflection of the real world? Is this really the answer to the question “what does entrepreneur mean”, or “what are the characteristics of an entrepreneur”?

The answer came to me when I attended “Small Business Month” a hosting of nearly 400 events throughout the State with more than 20,000 attendees.

It quickly became clear that none of these definitions came anywhere the reality. Instead there was a much broader range of activities at the event all covered under the moniker of entrepreneur meaning that out there on the street and in the real world the term entrepreneur is used in a much wider context. Allow me to explain.

Small Business Month

At the Small Business Month event there were a number of vendors offering paid entrepreneurship courses, a range of online free courses, actual training provided at the event for free, as well as a bunch of “how to use my platform” type speakers.

However what shocked me was that at three of the speaking events I attended the number of attendees varied enormously:

  • The first had a long track record in education on business fundamentals and in particular business planning and marketing. Number of attendees in the audience? Three, including me
  • The second had developed a low-cost business management system and framework for real-time tracking of performance throughout a business’ value chain. Number of attendees in the audience? Three, including me
  • The third event, a global infrastructure provider spoke on how to set up your online shop on their infrastructure. Number of attendees in the audience? Over a 100 people (including me)!

Unlike the poorly attended first two events the third event attracted a huge crowd and the room was abuzz with excitement with people eager to get started hoping to make their millions, or at the very least replace part or all of a wage.

They were ready to take the extremely bold and courageous leap from idea to implementation bypassing all of the critical stages that the traditional media identified as part of their definition of entrepreneurship.

While there is no doubting that passion and luck have a big part to play in achieving success, but unless you’re ready for the luck to arrive, recognise it and be able to take advantage of it, success can easily pass you by.

Instead what I found was an unrealistic eagerness driven by “the power of positive thinking” combined with the suspension of disbelief. Somehow this online auction/shop activity was seen as an easy business to start that didn’t need good planning and good management for it to be successful. Sorry, but think again!

However, when offered excellent tools that help you plan and manage, there was almost no one interested. Plenty of takers who were excited by the “froth and bubbles” of the activity – selling online – but “don’t bother me with such mundane things as planning and management!”

It’s no different to the thousands of people who, star-struck, “invest” thousands of dollars after listening to a spruiker for less than an hour purporting to show them (for instance) how to use their software and techniques to play the stock market “risk-free”, or how to become a successful property developer with “no money down”, or how to setup an online business “with massive traffic potential”.

Maybe what this is about is a knee-jerk reaction to the deteriorated economic conditions brought about in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis which has virtually decimated the middle class and thoroughly undermined the financial aspirations of everyone but the very top echelons of society.

Many people finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet, and the urge to find something that can be done right now to put money into the household budget immediately can be overwhelming.

So the question is does/should all of this activity “qualify” for the title “entrepreneurship”, or should we try and separate it out somehow.

My personal view is an emphatic “yes” – it should all be considered as falling within the meaning of entrepreneurship. The reason being what a risky venture is for some may not be so for another, so there really isn’t some objective measure, some yardstick of entrepreneurship.

However, that does not justify making decisions on some leap of faith. Each and every one of the activities spoken about is a business in its own right and you need knowledge on how to plan and manage these businesses in order to be successful.

Yet it would seem that most people are more interested in the activity itself then in knowing how to consistently be successful at doing the activity. While we may look at this as a renewal of the human spirit – the phoenix of renewed individualised economic activity that celebrates who we are and who can become as people, it has its dangers.

A misplaced sense of hope mixed with an attitude of invincibility in the absence of good education and training is a bit like convincing yourself you can safely jump off a roof unassisted just because you’ve listening to someone talking about superheros. You cannot safely live vicariously through these message.

The need for entrepreneurship education

While some may say the “failure is the mother of success“, when you are in business this can easily translate into a great deal of hardship to you, your family and your children. Worse still, if you can’t pay your bills your failure can trigger hardship in other people’s lives, putting someone else’s business and life under great strain and for some that can be last straw.

To be a successful entrepreneur you must be prepared to invest in your entrepreneurship education and it is up to experienced people such ourselves to make sure that the quality of this education and training is as high as we can reasonably make it.

On that note, let’s all celebrate entrepreneurship in all its infinite glory!

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Further reading

[1] Source: businessdictionary.com

[2] Source: wikipedia.org

[3] Source: forbes.com

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