This question was asked on the website Quora and I thought it an excellent question worthy of a comprehensive response.
Should I be an entrepreneur?
Charles M. Alexander, former founder of 17 successful businesses at Entrepreneurship (1988-2017)
STOP…!!!!!! Read the other answers (Below) first and then come back here.
The 100%, absolutely correct answer is….. “It depends”.
Entrepreneur; a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
- I very much disagree with David Rose’s comments.
- I very much agree with Richard Hardiman’s comments and would like to add to them.
*Please note during the last 35 years I have founded, built & run numerous businesses of varying sizes. I have also gone back to school (middle aged) and obtained 2 graduate degrees (MBA and a Law degree). I share this so you have a better understanding of where my opinions are coming from.
First off, I find a large percentage of people that come from academia frown on the concept that entrepreneurship can be learned – although many universities have, or are creating, entrepreneurship programs. My experience is that there is about a 50/50 mix of those in academia that have walked the walk and those who only talk the talk. It is your responsibility who’s advice you chose to listen to.
Secondly, I find that the vast majority of people that have gained their ‘entrepreneurial’ experience through a tech start-up have a skewed view of how entrepreneurial pursuits can be done – without spending day and night worrying about their “next raise”…
Joe Abraham wrote an excellent book on this topic and created a program called BOSI which stands for “Builder, Opportunist, Specialist & Innovator”. He breaks down an individuals Entrepreneurial DNA into these four categories. It is his thesis (which has some scientific backing) that people can have entrepreneurial DNA in more than one of these categories, but typically are strongest in one.
I am 56% Builder – that’s probably why I have started and built many companies but tend to get a little bored after 5–6 years and feel the itch to do something else.
My guess is that a large number of people who came up through academia and currently teach are “Specialist”. Common examples of specialist would be an accountant, doctor, lawyer, auto mechanic, HVAC technician, chef, etc. They are very proficient in their respective field and do not feel a strong urge to venture away from it. That does not mean that a specialist won’t start a business. To Richards comments, he would not consider one of these folks as an ‘entrepreneur’ because the field they operate in is already determined, it is recognizable and preset. I disagree, if an individual sets out to create an new law practice, medical office, CPA firm, HVAC company and builds it from scratch in my book they are an entrepreneur because they created something new that did not exist before. The model may be tried and tested, it may be a little boring for the tech start-up person but that does not make it any less exciting, scary and risky for that individual.
The people that Richard describes, and favors as ‘true’ entrepreneurs, would fall into the “Opportunist” category. They, as Joe often describes, are sitting at a stop light in their friends perfectly good Honda Accord (its safe and reliable), yet a brand new Ferrari pulls up next to them and the driver winks – that opportunist jumps out of the Honda and is off the the races in the Ferrari – no real thought or planning – just the thought of a great opportunity leads their decision making. I can’t help but wonder if that is why the failure rate among tech startups is so massive…
Innovators are great at starting things but very quickly get bored and tend to be pretty poor operators and managers. They would prefer to stay in the garage and just keep inventing ‘stuff’.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau ( Census.gov ) and the Kauffman Foundation ( The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation ) businesses started by people between the ages of 45–54 and 55–64 have the highest success rate of all small businesses started in the United States. Why is that? After extensive analysis, I contend that is because those age groups have the highest “maturity of thought’. It is only after they have researched and analyzed, studied and dissected, do they make a move past the “threshold of fear” and actually move forward with their dream.
So, what makes a great entrepreneur?
…is it someone who invents or creates a brand new product or service (BTW, that is all that a software program is – its just much less tangible)?
…is it someone who starts a brand new highly recognizable business or practice?
…is it someone who buys an existing business and grows it even more – employing more people?
An entrepreneur is someone that “takes a dream and monetizes it”…
My dream, my Big, Bold Audacious mission statement is to;
“Measurably increase the success rate of all small businesses in the United States”.
If you’d like more info please check out my website www.CharlesMAlexander.com or read my book “Live in Entrepreneurial Freedom” available on Amazon, and please write a review if you find it helpful.
David S. Rose, Entrepreneur, Investor, Mentor, Founding Entrepreneurship Chair at Singularity U
Why? Because entrepreneurship is not subject to rational decision making, nor to soliciting advice from random strangers.
You either are or are not an entrepreneur. By my estimates, roughly 25% of people who start businesses are natural entrepreneurs. These are the 1% of the population who somehow, some way, were born with the genetics/psychiatry/whatever that defines entrepreneurship. They are the—often hypomanic—people who simply can’t envision doing anything else, and like a flower growing toward sunlight will always end up creating new ventures, or else they will be miserable. This group includes virtually all of the well known company founders of large, high growth, businesses, such as Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, Branson, Bloomberg, Bezos et al. It also includes people around here such as Jason M. Lemkin, Tim Berry, Paul DeJoe, Tara Hunt…and me.
The other 75% of new businesses are founded by self-made entrepreneurs. These people are highly entrepreneurial, disciplined, self-starters who have determined that they have what it takes to create and operate a new venture. They make up the overwhelming majority of the small, independent business owners who form the backbone of the American economy and account for the 2.8 million new business tax returns that are filed annually in the US.
What both of these groups have in common is that for them there was never any question about “whether” or “if”. They are either hardwired to do it, or else they have slowly and surely arrived at the conviction that they could and should do it.
So if there is any question in your mind about whether this is the right path for you, the question has been answered definitively: you are not part of the first group, and you are not yet ready to join the second. So the answer to your question is…no.
Richard Hardiman, CEO at RanMarine (2015-present)
I think there are a couple of things you need to check before “becoming” an Entrepreneur.
Firstly (my opinion only) one doesn’t choose to become one; my last business partner (since left) came from a very corporate background, he joined our startup and the next day he had changed his LinkedIn profile to read “entrepreneur”, which I found odd. I took me a while to work out why I found it strange but then it hit me; he wasn’t because he hadn’t done anything yet; he left a job and joined another company albeit a startup, but that didn’t make him an entrepreneur. He quoted Silicon Valley a lot and wanted to be a maverick but actually he had jumped on some else’s bandwagon and claimed he was a game changer. When we fell out he said to me something like I had good ideas but one thing I wasn’t was a businessman. It hurt like hell to hear that because he felt he could not handle the stress of the environment and now he was looking to make it my fault he wanted out; but you know what he was right. I wasn’t a businessman; entrepreneurs in the most part aren’t. They are people who race ahead with ideas that often change the world. A businessman could do the same but he will measure out all the risks, proceed slowly and ultimately deem the risk to win too great and back away; now I say I am not a businessman, I am someone who employs them, asks advice from them, but I am not one of them.
You see there is a vast difference in going into business and becoming a business owner than saying you are an entrepreneur. We call these people businessman / business owners. To me this is the guy how owns two or three KFC franchises, maybe started a Real Estate Agency, his or her’s own small business; in short someone who started a business to earn better money than working for someone else. I call this “The C&D route”; it’s Commendable but it’s Dependable. You are risking your time and money on a known strategy; how it works out is based on your business acumen and if you made the right call on what industry you entered. But when all is said and done you are working with known quantities and you can benchmark against known facts and figures and rates of return; you changed nothing but where you go to work and who you work for, which is massively commendable but as I say, its quite dependable.
An entrepreneur, again my own opinion, is someone who blazes away in a new direction, a new unknown territory, or perhaps disrupting a known industry but finding a new and better way of doing it. They go up against the establishment (businessman) who tell you it cannot be done because of “x” or “y”; they go up against established industries who simply do not want them anywhere near “their” market (Uber is a good example here). To be an entrepreneur you need to see gaps, create gaps and live in a constant state of believing you have it right (its not always possible and obviously sometimes you are just not right); because everyone will show you how you could be wrong.
As a general rule Entrepreneurs fail more often than they get it right, people who buy Pizza franchises don’t. But when an Entrepreneur gets it right it creates a new industry, a new way of doing things, creates new possibilities and ultimately does something that changes the world.
An entrepreneur risks one of the most valuable things we have, reputation. Not on being bad businessman but rather on being looked as just plain crazy. It’s tough, there are no handouts and the risk of failure is ever present.
Changing your Linkedin profile doesn’t make you entrepreneur; coming up with a new way doing old things or completely new ways of just existing and shooting for the stars to execute on it…thats the start of it.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, then find that gap and blaze away, and when it may not work, get up again and start again. If you can get through the highs and lows and carry on then you are on the right track