Being and Entrepreneur or Building a Business


I am seeing the word ‘Entrepreneur’ used a lot these days and in many cases it refers to people that are not Entrepreneurs at all. There is a lot of difference between someone that builds a business and an Entrepreneur.

The trouble is, the word comes from french:
1875–80; < French: literally, one who undertakes (some task), equivalent to entrepren ( dre ) to undertake (< Latin inter- inter- + prendere to take, variant of prehendere ) + -eur -eur.

So basically it refers to an employer or business owner. However, over the years we have used it to describe someone that starts a business or develops a business normally in a innovative or creative way and often against significant odds.

Now we seem to be using it liberally to describe anyone starting up a business or owning one. I think that is sad. We should be able to differentiate those that are simply running or building a business and those that are reinventing businesses.

In my mind, you are not an entrepreneur if you simply take over a current business and continue doing it the way it has always been done. You are not an entrepreneur if you buy a franchise when all the creativity is largely done for you. To me an entrepreneur is someone that takes a business and turns it on its head and reinvents it, or comes up with an idea that has never been done before and makes it work.

You see, the CEO of a major company is rarely an entrepreneur unless they were the Founders. Interestingly, not many Founders of companies are very good a running them when they get to being a large company. Look at RIM (Blackberry), Yahoo, etc. In fact the clever ones realize they are too entrepreneurial to be CEO of a large company and step aside…..i.e. Bill Gates with Microsoft. In fact, the larger the company is, the less entrepreneurial it can be. Richard Branson is an entrepreneur because he has started businesses from scratch and when they have got to a certain level….HE has got out of the way.

Entrepreneurs tend to be those that start the business concept and build it from scratch. Not only do they see the world differently, they have the courage to try something new, challenge boundaries and conventional wisdom and take risks most would shy away from.

Business builders replicate, build on what an entrepreneur started, and develop within largely conventional wisdom. The world needs both but they are NOT the same and have very separate skills and mindsets.

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