What is the fuss around entrepreneurship all about? Isn’t entrepreneur just a fancy word for businessman/businesswoman? Why is entrepreneurship talked about like it’s a whole new concept when people have been doing business since forever? These are all valid questions to ask at a time when everyone, from the government to the media to the schools and the universities, seems to be really thrilled and excited about entrepreneurship.
Before we get to “What is entrepreneurship?” and “What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?”, here’s a quick experiment for you. Go to Google Search and type entrepreneur. Open another tab and, this time, type businessman. Compare the image results the search engine throws up. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg – these are the people whose photos Google associates with the term entrepreneur. What does the search for the term businessman return? Stock photos of stylish men clad in suit and tie, but no real living men or women! Strange, isn’t it?
All entrepreneurs are businesspeople, but not all businesspeople are entrepreneurs. Businesspeople start a business using an existing idea as the base. They run their organizations using traditional procedures, taking as few risks as possible, with the sole aim of making money, in a market that has many other people running the same business as them. This makes them market players who are content with making a place for themselves in the market. Businesses can and do fail for a variety of reasons but the element of risk plays little role in their failure. It is these reasons that make the term businessman a generic one; so generic that Google doesn’t associate it with any readily recognizable faces.
If businessmen aren’t necessarily entrepreneurs, what then is the concept of entrepreneurship and what does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
- To be an entrepreneur means to have a vision. What that means is that entrepreneurs want to create a future that is better than the present. They identify a gap in the market and set out to fill it by setting up a business based on a unique and innovative idea.
- Entrepreneurship is not just about having great ideas. A lot of people have them but they don’t always make successful entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is also about being good at getting things done. Being an entrepreneur means having the skills both to think creatively and to implement the creativity in the most efficient manner possible.
“People think innovation is just having a good idea but a lot of it is just moving quickly and trying a lot of things.” – Mark Zuckerberg
- Entrepreneurs are risk-takers. They go into uncharted territories, doing things no one has done before or doing things considered impossible.
- Among the characteristics of an entrepreneur is the willingness to learn and adapt and respond to challenges as and when they arise.
“You never lose in business, either you win or you learn.” – Melinda Emerson
- Entrepreneurs are market leaders. They are innovators and change agents who set trends for others to follow.
- Doing things the traditional way is not what entrepreneurs are known to do. They challenge the conventional wisdom and change the status quo by bringing in innovation not just in what they do but also in how they do it.
“Organizations that destroy the status quo win. Whatever the status quo is, changing it gives you the opportunity to be remarkable.” – Seth Godin
- The concept of entrepreneurship entails solving problems. Entrepreneurs don’t sell products. They solve problems to make life better for a large number of people.
- Entrepreneurship is not an altruistic activity. It is work done with the aim of making money. But money making isn’t the main driver of entrepreneurial activity. Customers, society at large, and employees all lie at the focal point of entrepreneurship.
- To be an entrepreneur means to keep moving forward. Successful entrepreneurs don’t just bask in the glory of their past achievements. They keep doing new things and keep making things better and better still.
“What is dangerous is not to evolve.” – Jeff Bezos
- There is a high risk of failure involved in entrepreneurship. Even the success that comes to many entrepreneurs doesn’t come easy. The meaning of entrepreneurship is to have single-minded commitment to achieve one’s goals even if it means spending sleepless nights, running into unforeseen problems, failing to achieve the goals and having to start all over again.
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the unsuccessful ones is pure perseverance.” –Steve Jobs
- One of the characteristics of an entrepreneur that is often overlooked is objectivity. When they start out, entrepreneurs have their own subjective ideas about what people want, what problems they have, and how those problems can be solved. But on the way ahead, the reality that shows up can be very different from what they had first imagined. Not being too attached to their own ideas and making decisions based on the objective reality is key to the concept of entrepreneurship.
The meaning of entrepreneurship is different for different people. Indeed, each entrepreneur likes to define it in their own subjective ways depending upon what motivated them to become an entrepreneur in the first place to where they have reached in their entrepreneurial journey. Entrepreneurship is not a new concept, but what we see today is an unprecedented interest in becoming an entrepreneur. To start one’s own venture can be extremely challenging and also extremely rewarding. Isn’t it nice to have Google show a picture of you as the face of entrepreneurship?