‘Entrepreneur’ is a challenging word — difficult to spell and even harder to define. A quick online search suggests the definition as ‘a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit’. So why don’t we just say ‘businessman’ or ‘businesswoman’? What is is about ‘entrepreneur’ that seems to capture people’s imaginations?
Steve Tobak, author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow, would argue that people who say they are entrepreneurs are simply giving themselves airs.
“Many would-be entrepreneurs have a sort of utopian belief that the rules of business, finance and competitive markets don’t apply to them. They think they’re special…” 7 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Do
Everyone in business, however, quickly learns that no one is exempt from the rules, and as Tobak explains, if you enter the game knowing that then your chances of failing decrease. The startup founders we support don’t think they’re special and know how much hard work it’s going to take to get anywhere, which is perhaps why they make such good entrepreneurs.
Are entrepreneurs sexier?
Maybe it is that entrepreneur sounds a bit sexier than businessperson, and so we associate it with success. Certainly in the world of startups the word brings to mind the image of someone with super productivity powers, who has developed unique routines to manage their many responsibilities and who always has their finger on the pulse. For example, The Daily Routines of 15 Successful Entrepreneurs.
But not everyone who’s ever built a business is exceptional at everything — surely some must sleep late, eat takeaway food and hate routine. Slickness isn’t what makes you an entrepreneur.
On Quora the question ‘ What does it take to become an entrepreneur?’ got many responses and personal stories of success, but many also heeded a warning — you can’t just become an entrepreneur, you need an idea first.
Going back to Tobak, he argues that it’s not even a real job. Yet it has become something people aspire to be — it sounds good and it looks good written down, even if no one is quite sure what it means.
What skills do you need?
One great article that does shed some light is Entrepreneurship Defined: What It Means to Be an Entrepreneur) from Business News Daily, in which 15 company founders and business owners describe what they think it means to be an entrepreneur.
The main point that comes up again and again is that you need to be solving a problem. No successful business ever came into existence just for the sake of it, it succeeded because people needed what it did.
Richard Branson famously said:
“A business is simply an idea to make other people’s lives better.”
To do that, you need to know your market and spot solutions where other people just see challenges.
One poignant point is that true entrepreneurs play to their own strengths — if they don’t have strengths in a certain area they make sure they’re working with people who do. This brings home the idea that being an entrepreneur is rarely a solo feat, you need a solid team around you and must know how to lead them. You have to continually test your assumptions and not just take it as a given that you’re riding the right wave just because you’re on the entrepreneurial board. In fact, timing and your team are more important than the actual idea, according to Bill Gross in The single biggest reason why startups succeed.
It’s a lot of long, hard work and requires a huge amount of courage to commit and persevere. But don’t forget, when you put this much into something you can get even more out of it. Hard work it may be, but the rewards are endless.
It doesn’t matter what you call yourself
If you fully believe in what you’re doing and are willing to put in the hours and effort it requires to be all the aspects mentioned above, then it really doesn’t matter what title you have. It’s the skills that give you what it takes to create and build a successful business.
At Vestd we truly understand what people go through when growing a business — we’re doing it ourselves. That’s why we do everything we can to make it easier for entrepreneurs/founders/businesspeople (whatever you want to be) to distribute equity and grow their business.