Entrepreneurship: What is It and What Does It Takes?
In discussing entrepreneurship and writing articles on the subject, I have found that it aids understanding when we begin by agreeing on exactly what the word means to us.
Entrepreneurship is the process of creating or seizing an opportunity, and pursuing it regardless of the resources currently controlled. The American Heritage Dictionary defines an entrepreneur to be “a person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for business ventures.”
These are rather abstract concepts for a person just beginning to consider whether they ought to start a business rather than take a job, or leave a secure job for a chance at greater self-fulfillment. Let us try to refine our understanding of entrepreneurship by asking some more specific questions.
Is everyone who runs a business an entrepreneur? Many would not consider the newspaper carrier, shoeshine person, and grass cutter entrepreneurs, though these are often the youthful pursuits of those with an entrepreneurial bent.
Does it matter whether the business is merely part-time? Whereas some part-time activities are basically hobbies, or undertaken to supplement income, some entrepreneurial ventures can be tested in the marketplace on a part-time basis.
The path to an entrepreneurial venture might begin by earning a salary in the business one expects to enter, while learning more about it, and waiting for the opportune time to go out on one’s own. This time can be used to develop a support network, professional and personal, and generating ideas to “bounce off” people whose opinion one respects.
At what scope does self-employment become a venture? The primary objective of many self-employed people is merely to employ themselves (and others if necessary) at a moderate to good salary; some are even willing to eke out a living to do what they enjoy. This approach is often referred to as a “lifestyle” business, and is generally accompanied by little, if any, plan for growth.
These questions are intended, not to develop a precise definition of
entrepreneurship, but to help us understand our attitude toward its many forms of expression. We may each answer these questions differently, yet all answer appropriately within our own frame of reference.
Entrepreneurship is more an attitude than a skill or a profession. Some of us may prefer a corporate or public service career path, but many would choose an entrepreneurial opportunity that “feels right.”
Would you consider a person who inherits a business an entrepreneur? From the point of inheritance on, it is their own money and financial security at risk. They could possibly sell the business, invest the proceeds in blue-chip stocks, and live off dividends. Some might consider managing a personal stock portfolio for a living as an entrepreneurial venture.
Would a person who inherited a small or marginal business, then took it to new dimensions be considered an entrepreneur? The inheritor could have tried merely to keep it going, or even to pace the business’ decline to just carry them to retirement. In a family-held business, long-term success is often a central goal.
Over the years countless institutes and individuals have asked the million dollar question. What makes an entrepreneur an entrepreneur? What traits or characteristics are inherent to a successful entrepreneur and is one born with those traits? There’s great news! Successful entrepreneurs are born every day!
Some people believe an entrepreneur is born while others believe an entrepreneur can be taught. Some believe an entrepreneur is like an artist – either you have it or do you don’t. Some see entrepreneurs as leaders that are focused, disciplined, competitive, and charismatic, while others see them as huge risk takers. And all of these analogies are right to some degree.
It’s true all successful entrepreneurs share a few qualities and skills that allow them to be successful. These inherent qualities can be taught; but they often seem to be an inherent driving force that sends individuals down the path of being in business or formally training to for a career in business.
Entrepreneurs see the world differently. They have the ability to see the world as a system. They have the ability to see something in its entirety and as an integrated unit, and they seem to possess the ability to see opportunity within the global picture. They are what is called a system thinker.
There are other characteristics they possess. Entrepreneurs possess an overpowering need to achieve and tend to be very competitive against themselves. They are continuously trying to outthink themselves and others and they are constantly looking for the edge. This is a process that occurs as naturally as breathing and is a driving force behind most entrepreneurs.
They have the determination and dedication to follow through with commitments and they always appear confident and in control. You’ll notice they also possess a positive atmosphere. They are of the mindset “I can,” and “I will.” They are not afraid of failure because failure is not in their vocabulary nor is it an option.
They are objective but have the ability to weigh risks realistically within the big picture. They have an uncanny ability to anticipate developments which gives them the edge on many competitive situations. Entrepreneurs seem to feel right from their gut, call it instinct. They are a resourceful group that possess excellent problem solving skills and are able to diligently work through obstacles as they occur.
Entrepreneurs are excellent communicators and recognize how important clear and concise communication is to their success. They also possess a sound working knowledge of the business they are involved in.
When it comes to successful entrepreneurs it’s a question of what came first, the chicken or the egg. Is it inherent qualities that we are born with that lead us to be entrepreneurs or is it when we choose to become an entrepreneur that we develop the skills and qualities of success? That’s a question we shall leave to the great debaters to resolve.
What is for certain is that successful entrepreneurs are born every day and that you too can be a successful entrepreneur by developing the skills of success.