Webster’s dictionary defines entrepreneur as “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” As is the case with many words, the real definition seem to get lost in application.
Managers, second- or third-generation family members, and CEOs, for example, tend to all get lumped into the category of entrepreneur because they perform one of the tasks within the definition. However, the real entrepreneur is the individual who does all of those things — he or she organizes, manages and assumes the risk. As the business grows, he or she must relinquish some or all of those responsibilities. Most entrepreneurs are not good at corporate management, following processes, or being politically correct. They are almost always a human resource nightmare, because they are unfiltered with their thoughts and words.
The true entrepreneur has traits that very few people possess. Now, please do not confuse this discussion with the entrepreneurial spirit. The spirit of the entrepreneur, as I have previously addressed, is something that all of us should strive to obtain. It is a cultural attitude. I strongly believe that we are in the midst of an entrepreneurial renaissance like we have never seen in history. For the first time, we are actually teaching the skills of an entrepreneur to anyone who would like to learn them. Can you imagine where this might take us, when the highly intellectual, process-type people learn these skills? It is nothing short of the impact of man learning to fly.
Optimism: Zig Ziglar said, “Optimists are those who go after Moby Dick, in a row boat, with a bucket of tarter sauce.” Do you see opportunities or do you see limitations? Realists like to point out the limitations – and some of that information is good to know – but ultimately it is how you view information, people, and ideas that determines your entrepreneurial success. The entrepreneur sees unlimited opportunity and, interestingly enough, opportunity finds them.
Resourcefulness: Entrepreneurs know how to find ways to accomplish a task while others are still busy analyzing and calculating outcomes, especially when it comes to people and their strengths. Entrepreneurs have a knack for taking in information, and between their reasoning skills and instincts, processing that information quickly, and then acting swiftly and with clarity. They connect people and they are constantly amassing individuals who can help them.
Knowledge: The entrepreneur is not necessarily knowledgeable about the product or service; instead they must be knowledgeable about themselves. Like the Dove commercial says, “I am comfortable in my skin.” Most people look upon the entrepreneur with admiration and skepticism. But the entrepreneur does not care what others think about them. They understand their weaknesses and they are not affected by societal norms, because they recognize that they are different – in a good way. The scary part about these personalities is that the system often wants to medicate them. I, and many of my counterparts, would have been Ritalin children had the drug existed back then.
Risk: Marty Sklar, a long-time Disney executive said, “The only people who don’t fail are the people who aren’t doing anything.” It is not that the entrepreneur lacks fear; it is that they have the courage to act in spite of their fear. The entrepreneur has an internal compass that registers the difference between faith and fear. Most people are frozen by fear, but the true entrepreneur can measure risk and still act. Their faith in the future has no bounds.
Vision: The entrepreneur has the ability to see the future in a way that others just can’t seem to conceptualize. He or she can take the trends of society or the opportunities that exist and can see how they would play out over time. The real entrepreneur lives five years ahead of society and, many times, this causes friction with those around them.
The concept of the “first-time entrepreneur” is very rare, because entrepreneurs are experimental by nature – they learn from their failures. This is where the battle cry of the socialist is so wrong. Socialists wish to protect people from failure, which I believe is sincere, but absolutely impossible. We can possibly reduce the percentage of failures, but the reality is that failure is a real consequence of starting. Sometimes, people need to fail in order to learn and grow. Only in failure do we really learn the correct lessons, and thus improve. Failure without learning is doomed to be repeated, and that’s why the greatest teacher of all is history.
However one begins the entrepreneurial journey, it is worth the race. The drive to seek life and live it every day while helping others is a priceless journey. In the words of Christopher Columbus, “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”