That’s the standard definition and one that most of us would apply to successful business owners, except, that is, the business owners themselves.
A new survey of UK small business owners by software firm Sage found that just 4% consider themselves entrepreneurs. The rest make a distinction, preferring to use the title business owner or self employed to describe what they do, arguing that the more down to earth title better reflects the challenges and gritty nature of running a business in the current economic climate.
The Q&A web portal wiseGEEK.com characterises an entrepreneur as “innovative, creative, and hard-working”, and interestingly, 70% of the ‘don’t call me an entrepreneur’ lobby see vision, drive and hard work as key attributes for success. So what is it about the title entrepreneur they are uncomfortable with? Are they being modest and underselling themselves? Has the term entrepreneur, as many have claimed, become simply overused?
By chance, the same week the Sage study was published l started reading American entrepreneur Tony Hsieh’s book ‘Delivering Happiness; A Path to Passion, Profits and Purpose’ charting his life from his first mail order business as a child to his role as CEO of Zappos, the dotcom shoe retailer acquired by Amazon in a deal worth more than $1 billion in 2009.
Like the Dysons and the Bransons of this world, this guy was born to be an entrepreneur; he ate slept and breathed business ideas, which he launched, grew, got bored with, sold, and came up with the next one, culminating with the creation of Zappos, a billion dollar turnover business.
It is an astonishing account, and apart from his fearlessness, it was Hseih’s prolific creative flair – some of his business ideas were pure masterstrokes of genius – that made him different to other business start up owners.
And going back to the Sage research, a strong link between entrepreneurs and innovation identified by most of the business owners surveyed was clearly a differentiator. Almost half saw an entrepreneur as someone who has ideas that bring innovations to business, yet only a quarter associated the term with someone who sets up or runs their own business.
Have the achievements of the super entrepreneurs behind the biggest and most successful brands forced a change of perception among business owners? Should it alter the way that entrepreneurs are defined?
Here’s what I think; the majority of small business owners may not be setting out to create a Zappos but with the challenges they face in today’s financial climate, they are constantly innovating, taking risks and solving problems, with an eye on their long term strategy. That makes them entrepreneurs.
There are some extraordinary entrepreneurs, whose brains are somehow hardwired to achieve exceptional things, but if you think like an entrepreneur, and run your business like an entrepreneur; you are an entrepreneur.