Sunday, July 10, 2011


The word 'entrepreneur' is being batted around quite a bit nowadays, in fact it is being used in so many situations and to describe so many people that I actually had to look the definition up to get my bearings.

Entrepreneurs, like the self employed and or business owner share some very important traits, they are all people who have possession of a new enterprise, venture, or idea, and are accountable for the inherent risks and the outcome of a product.  That does not mean that every entrepreneur is necessarily a business owner or self employed, nor does it mean that every owner is an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs are leaders and team builders, but that does not mean that they will be "a founder," "CEO/President," or "owner" of a company or organization.  An entrepreneur characteristically innovates, introduces new technologies, increases efficiency, productivity, or generates new products or services. An entrepreneur acts as a catalyst for economic change and are highly creative individuals who imagine new solutions by generating opportunities for profit or reward.

True entrepreneurs put passion before profits; the vision, the dream, is what they live for not the money.  A true creative passion to change, to improve, to see things others do not see, can actually be hindered by greed, by a desire to get rich.  

Can entrepreneurship be taught?  No, not really.  Environments can be created where entrepreneurship can flourish, and I would argue that the key issue with our economy right now is that we, as a nation, have killed entrepreneurship and it is probably the number one reason we find ourselves in the situation we are in.  Now, I realize that numerous readers will react negatively to what I just said, but outside of technology, outside of the internet, we have absolutely no environment for entrepreneurship.

If we want to foster entrepreneurship then we need to return to the concept of "critical thinking" or:
"...knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event..."
In a recently published study,  Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Richard Arum notes that:
Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called “higher order” thinking skills.Students who majored in the traditional liberal arts — including the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics — showed significantly greater gains over time than other students in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills.  Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning. However, the authors note that their findings don’t preclude the possibility that such students “are developing subject-specific or occupationally relevant skills.”
Entrepreneurship is not an occupation but rather a way of thinking and seeing the world.  It is more a Weltanschauung than a 'subject' of study.  

I think we also need to realize that there is "opportunity driven" entrepreneurs and "necessity driven" entrepreneurs;  The world of internet based start ups is an example of opportunity driven entrepreneurs, while the rest of our economy fosters entrepreneurship as necessity driven, or people striking out on their own due to financial necessity.  There is an emerging body of work that shows that entrepreneurial behavior is dependent on social and economic factors:  For examplecountries which have healthy and diversified labor markets or stronger safety nets show a more favorable ratio of opportunity-driven rather than necessity-driven entrepreneurs.

Necessity-driven entrepreneurs work out of their home, become insurance salesmen, or open up cupcake shops, while opportunity-driven entrepreneurs create new products, new ways of doing things, and eventually jobs for others.


Geoffrey the SIX STRING cpa™ said...

Great post. Agree. I have always viewed myself as entrepreneurial based on my actions not because of any title I happen to have been wearing at that particular time in my professional life. It actually stemmed from a comment one of my teachers said to me. I had gotten into trouble for not following the rules. Worse yet, I got others to 'not follow the rules' too. After class my teacher used a few words, one of which was entrepreneurial - it was the first time I remember hearing that term.

I have worked in a few large organizations. One of these roles was as a team member of a major culture/improvement efforts (yeah, one of those). We were tasked with letting people know we were engaging in Intrapreneurship. I understand what the goal was and why this term was to be used but I just told people who asked me what I did that I was an entrepreneur.

I did a brief post on a trend I see regarding the term entrepreneur. Many try to use it solely in the realm of tech - which is a mistake in my opinion.

I have had a little time to read a couple of your posts. I have been enjoying them. Glad we were able to meet on AVC.

Carl said...

I have never been attracted to large corporations; and having worked for ARAMCO, I have to acknowledge that I worked for one of the largest corporations in the world and enjoyed it.

Once in Bangladesh on business I got in a discussion with a group about their politics and someone said, "Is a man an honest man if he surrounds himself with dishonest men? Is a dishonest man honorable if he surrounds himself with honorable men?"

I think the same question could be applied to organizations; every organization seeks out change, change agents, and or innovation...but how do you bring "out of the box" thinking to organizations who define their themselves by job descriptions and boxes of an organizational chart?

Carl said...

Five surprising traits of successful entrepreneurs: