What is an entrepreneur?
I kicked off the new column with an explanation of the scope of the column and the intended audience. I also gave a justification for the chosen name of the column and an overview of the subject matter on which the articles will focus, and concluded with the very inspiring Entrepreneur’s Credo of Thomas Paine. Since we are starting with a new theme, I decided to devote this delivery to investigate what the term “entrepreneur” means and to share my preferred explanation of the term.
You can probably appreciate that there are many explanations and definitions for an entrepreneur. I have been lecturing “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” at the Harold Pupkewitz Graduate School of Business for the past 4 years and the first session of the first day of the course always entails a discussion about the meaning of the term “entrepreneur”. Every year it amazes me how many different interpretations there are of the term and also the modifications it has undergone to create new versions of the term to accommodate for special cases of entrepreneurship such as “tenderpreneurs”, “solopreneurs”, “infopreneurs” etc. For the next discussion in the class I like to pose the question if an entrepreneur is born or made, but that is a topic for another day.
So, instead of giving a definitive definition for the term, I would rather share some of the common traits of entrepreneurs and then share my preferred definition. Hence, based on an analysis of 23 research studies published under the title “The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Entrepreneurial Status” (Robinson, 2014), the following seven traits feature most in entrepreneurs:
1. Tenacity. Starting a business is an ultramarathon. You have to be able to live with uncertainty and push through a crucible of obstacles for years on end. 2. Passion. It’s commonly assumed that successful entrepreneurs are driven by money. But most will tell you they are fuelled by a passion for their product or service, by the opportunity to solve a problem and make life easier, better, cheaper. 3. Tolerance of ambiguity. This classic trait is the definition of risk-taking – the ability to withstand the fear of uncertainty and potential failure. 4. Vision. One of the defining traits of entrepreneurship is the ability to spot an opportunity and imagine something where others haven’t. 5. Self-belief. Self-confidence is a key entrepreneurial trait. You have to be crazy-sure your product or service is something the world needs and that you can deliver it to overcome the naysayers, who will always deride what the majority has yet to validate. 6. Flexibility. Business survival, like that of the species, depends on adaptation. Your final product or service likely won’t look anything like what you started with. Flexibility that allows you to respond to changing tastes and market conditions is essential. 7. Rule-breaking. Entrepreneurs exist to defy conventional wisdom. In fact, simply starting a business breaks the rules, if you look at the statistics of the number of business started each year and how many of these business still exists 5 years later. There are many other characteristics that can be ascribed to entrepreneurs, but I agree that these 7 are definitely the most prominent. I do not want to dwell into the discussion of if a micro-entrepreneur or a subsistence-entrepreneur are also defined as entrepreneurs. In my view that is an academic discussion and I believe that anybody who takes the risk of starting a venture, whether for survival or to become a millionaire, whether you are Bill Gates or a street vendor , is worth calling an entrepreneur.
My preferred definition for entrepreneurship? I read it about 3 years ago in an online article by Bill Murphy and it changed the way I think about entrepreneurship: “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled”. That’s the 12-word definition of entrepreneurship that they teach at Harvard Business School. I will continue in the next article to explain why I find this definition so suitable. I conclude with a quote by Peter Drucker: “Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice”.
Robinson, J. 2014. The 7 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs. Online: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230350