Entrepreneur is one of my favorite words. It can be interpreted in so many ways.
Let’s begin with the dictionary’s definition…
[ ahn-truh-pruh-nur, -noo r; French ahn-truh-pruh-nœr ]
French: literally, one who undertakes (some task)
a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business,
usually with considerable initiative and risk.
French economist Jean-Baptiste Say was the first to use the word around
1875–18801. At the time it was translated as "adventurer." And the prefix of the word – entre – means to enter. So I like to define entrepreneur as “one who enters into adventure”.
That said, most people identify entrepreneur with a person who starts and runs their own business. My point of entry on this is there’s another way to look at it - it’s personal and it relates to you (and me, and dare I say, most everyone).
Let’s begin with a short discussion about entrepreneurship in the sense of business.
What do we have to do, to start a business?
First, we must recognize an opportunity and second, we must capitalize on it. To recognize an opportunity ultimately goes back one of the key subjects I like to write about, “awareness.” We become “aware” of a possibility. we “see” something that looks like an opportunity.
In the context of present-day entrepreneurship, an opportunity is just that; a human want or need that is not being fulfilled.
Putting it a different way, an entrepreneur recognizes a problem without a solution. So what do they do? They create the solution. That solution is the business they create.
At this point you may be wondering, “Rudy what does entrepreneurship have to do with me?” You may not even consider yourself to be an entrepreneur. In fact, I’m reasonably certain that most people don’t. To that I say, in today’s rapidly-changing world, entrepreneurship is relevant and necessary for us all.
Allow me to explain…
I understand that most people are technically not “entrepreneurs” who have started, or planning on, running their own businesses. If this is you, it’s likely you do have experience utilizing an entrepreneurial mindset while working for your employer’s company, which is essentially the act of being an “intrepreneur” – one who invents and leads inside the constraints of someone else’s company. An example would be you find a better way of doing a physical or intellectual process and it works its way into everyday practice. That is an intrepreneurial thing to do. That said, the days of spending your entire career, working at one company and trusting that the company you work for will take care of you in retirement are, by and large, over. Kaput.
In fact, it’s believed that people entering the workforce today will have a minimum of seven careers. Not just jobs, but careers, that span several years. Another fact is many of the jobs that will exist in the not too distant future may not even exist today. What does that say to those of us who are later in life? It means we too may have multiple careers employed in jobs that we have no experience in doing because, a) we’ve never done them or b) they don’t yet exist.
And so one way of looking at this, as self-made billionaire and philanthropist Ewing Kauffman was known to say, “Don’t take a job, Make a job.”3 Which is, by definition what an entrepreneur does. It’s a mindset. One that requires all of the things we’ve been discussing; open-mindedness, curiosity, a will to learn and the ability to overcome adversity.
That’s just one way of looking at entrepreneurship. An equally, if not more important perspective on entrepreneurship is one that I discovered some years ago and would like to share with you today. And by the way, it’s about much more than making money – it’s about something called happiness.
The conclusion I came to is that my personal life, my family, my home, my “things” (and my happiness) are in essence, a business. My business. My lifelong business. Me Inc. is the one and only company that will take care of me the rest of my life.
In order for it to do that, Me Inc. needs to turn a profit, so I can pay for basic needs (food, shelter, etc). To be successful, Me Inc. also needs to save and invest for future requirements (retirement, health, etc). Like any business, Me Inc. has accounts receivable (i.e. salary, income) and accounts payable (i.e. Bills). As the founder and CEO of Me Inc. I have to market my skills and services so that I can maintain and grow my revenue, and so on. There’s no instruction book, no boss to tell my how or what to do and no one to turn to if things go south. Being the one who runs Me Inc., that means I have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility, to write the business plan that charts my course to my desired future. I call it my “life plan”. That makes me the entrepreneur of my life. Me, Inc. And you, the entrepreneur of your life, You, Inc.
You may now be thinking, ok that makes sense Rudy but… I’m just not feeling it. There’s no way I’m an entrepreneur.
If so, let me suggest you be inquisitive and ask a logical question…
“Is entrepreneurship something I can learn?”
To that, I’d like to share a quote from an interview I did with author and Stanford Professor, Tina Seelig who said, “Can you teach sports? Can you teach music? Can you teach math? Can you teach history? Yes. Of course. There are some people, who are natural born musicians, and there are natural athletes; but everybody can improve and everybody can benefit by knowing more about it.” Shen then concluded with her memorable phrase, “Entrepreneurship is an extreme sport. You have to get out and do it.”
In another interview I conducted with Venture Capitalist Steve Jurvetson, he said,
“The attributes we look for in entrepreneurs is a passion and a drive to make a difference. They must really care about what they are doing. They must have, most importantly, an infectious enthusiasm.”
OK, according to my friends at Stanford, we know we can learn this way of thinking. And yes… it’s going to take energy, passion and a drive to make a difference. But how hard can it be to be energetic, passionate, driven and full of “infectious enthusiasm” when it comes to our own personal life and family?
With that, I’d like to bring this discussion of entrepreneurship, specifically personal entrepreneurship, back to Jean-Baptiste Say and the descriptive word "adventurer." Whether or not we consider ourselves entrepreneurs, we’re all adventurers, with our course set for our desired future.
Assuming you’re onboard with this line of thinking, the next logical question is, how do I start living my life as the founder and CEO of your version of Me.inc?
Here are ten fundamental questions to ask yourself that will get your entrepreneurial mindset fired up and help you develop your Me.Inc life plan that I believe will lead to a desired future that is full of possibilities, opportunities and happiness.
And perhaps most importantly…
Now, I didn’t’ say answering the questions was going to be easy so please remember Jean-Baptiste Say when he defined entrepreneurship as an adventure.
And lastly, one final and very important piece of advice… if you don’t think you can answer the last question in the affirmative, then I recommend you go back to question #1 and begin the adventure again.
May personal entrepreneurship, success and happiness by yours. Enjoy the adventure.