On reflection, I have had a very fortunate life, I have no regrets.
Being an entrepreneur can be both exciting and frustrating
People are often as confused as I was, about what categorises an entrepreneur and what they actually do. Many people think that if you own a business you’re an entrepreneur, others confuse business failure with entrepreneurship failure. They do not understand what an entrepreneur is or what they can do for a business, which as an entrepreneur I have found at times to be a little frustrating.
The world of business, in my opinion, can be motivating, exhausting, complex, basic, exciting, boring and at times present problems and challenges that question my values, my beliefs and my capabilities. Occasionally I was unable to function properly and it was exasperating trying to have people understand.
I found it very frustrating in my efforts to understand entrepreneurship and what it meant in practical terms. Why so many people had difficulty starting and running a business when I didn’t.
There are always questions surrounding entrepreneurship
For those who have yet to experience running or managing a business, or organisation, it is difficult to appreciate what it takes to launch a new venture until you have experienced it. How do you cope with all the things that need to be done, how can you be sure what you are doing is going to work, how will you find the right people and the money to run the business?
It might sound a bit funny now, but these were questions that I never really thought about. I started doing whatever it took to get things moving and my vision was what drove me to do whatever I needed to do.
Why do I and other entrepreneurs take on so many opportunities in our lives? Early last century, Joseph Schumpeter, the economist, gave us the modern definition of an entrepreneur. “They are the people who destroy the existing economic order by introducing new products and services, by creating new forms of organisation, or by exploiting new raw materials”.
According to Schumpeter, “that person is most likely to accomplish this destruction by founding a new business but may also do it within an existing one”.
Entrepreneurship is not new
The study of entrepreneurship reaches back to the early 18th century, but only theoretically until the early 20th century when empirically evidence started to arrive. Until recently, entrepreneurs have not been widely studied and a general lack of knowledge and information of what made them tick.
It was only in the last 50 years there was an insightful resurgence in business, which was why the word entrepreneurship was never discussed in my family (my grandfather died 60 years ago and my father died 50 years ago) and it wasn’t introduced to me until the early 1980s.
I have found it difficult to find data about the percentage of true entrepreneurs there are in the general population, but my best guesstimate is something less than 10%, but that doesn’t stop everybody thinking they know how to drive a business better than the entrepreneur.
Learning about entrepreneurship
There is nothing like starting to do things on purpose and with the confidence that you even feel like an entrepreneur.
Over the last 40 years, I have been a student of entrepreneurship, closely studying many entrepreneurs and I am convinced entrepreneurs are born not made. I believe entrepreneurship is part of my DNA.
I don’t believe you can teach someone to be an entrepreneur, I have been asked too many times. I have tried to teach people some of the special skills entrepreneurs possess, but alas I kept failing miserably, particularly when it came to ‘joining up the dots’.
One thing I do know is, as an entrepreneur, you can knock me down many times and I will always stand up and go again. I don’t know where this comes from but I would like to. So many people who fail or suffer a major trauma never recover from it.
“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change”. Jim Rohn
Acquiring the complex mix of things such as dreaming, visioning, joining up the dots, drive, passion and the determination to pursue an entrepreneurial course is in the DNA. However, give me someone who has ‘fire in their belly’ to succeed and I will teach them how to develop some of the critical entrepreneurial skills which will assist them along their journey in life.
Yes, entrepreneurs fail, I know I have
Organisations of all shapes and sizes can succeed and fail, as can the entrepreneurs that start and run them. Why is this when entrepreneurs have so many positive skills?
I believe all organisations are subject to forces in the economy and entrepreneurs are no different they make mistakes like everyone else. Often I have failed because I did not follow my gut instincts, I spent too much time overriding them. It’s easy to become involved without enough thought and research, along with becoming involved in organisations and projects for the wrong reasons.
How do entrepreneurs think?
This question has produced a lot of clichés, they thrive on chaos, embrace risk, break moulds and seem to do little so-called hard research. I agree with all of the above as it makes for a fun filled and productive life.
Entrepreneurs think laterally, are creative and innovative and don’t wait for leaders to come along before they act. Entrepreneurs are unlike most other people, they don’t start out with concrete goals, instead, they constantly assess how to use their attributes and whatever resources they have to develop their aspirations and the aspirations of others.
There is no doubt that when an entrepreneur puts their mind to it, they are really good at analysing situations, problem-solving and decision-making. They are also more intuitive than the average person.
What distinguishes them, is that they do this on the fly, creatively reacting to unforeseen events and demands put on them. Having set a goal they carefully search for the best ways to achieve it. By way of contrast others, who are also successful in their chosen field, tend to use reasoning, logic, research and analysis before they act.
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I have always enjoyed my life, I have been very fortunate. But since realising that I was a real entrepreneur, (have been tested on many occasions), I love life even more.
Perhaps one of the benefits that I like most about being an entrepreneur is being a thought leader and constantly rediscovering ways to create new conversations, that will lead to better relationships, better health and better businesses as well as nicer places in which to live and work.
I am able to set my own schedule containing the sort of work I like while enjoying a good work/life balance, based on my family’s aspirations.