What Is an Entrepreneur Really? Three Facts and Three Myths

Richard Eaton is a founding partner at Berlineaton and a senior management consultant facilitating significant, positive culture shifts within large organizations and complex human systems.

An entrepreneur is commonly defined as “a person who organizes and operates a business, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” That does a pretty good job of describing my professional life, but I find that description a little too shallow to do justice to my life’s work, or, as author Peter Drucker might say, my practice.

So what is an entrepreneur? Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 20 years, both the hard and the fun way.

Three things an entrepreneur probably is:

1. An entrepreneur is passionate about making things better

Entrepreneurs embody passion and authenticity. Think of the cartoon character Dudley Do-Right of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle show and you won’t go far wrong.

2. An entrepreneur can be anyone, anywhere, anytime 

Entrepreneurship is not the exclusive province of the private sector, or external business consultants, or anyone else who might be described as a guru. Anyone, in any walk of life, anywhere, can be an entrepreneur. See a need, fill it. That’s all. Oh, you don’t think government workers can be entrepreneurs? Think again.

3. An entrepreneur is an opportunist, in a good way

An entrepreneur can quickly identify opportunities and convert them into magic. 

Three things an entrepreneur probably is not: 

1. A real entrepreneur is probably not stressed out all the time

Much of the literature out there eulogizes the workaholic, overstressed entrepreneur. But entrepreneurship should actually be tremendously fun and exciting. You shouldn’t be doing this — or anything for that matter — just for the money or, even worse, for the promise of money. To paraphrase Confucius: as long as you are pursuing your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life. If you’re an entrepreneur and are stressed out to the point where you think you can’t take it anymore, then it’s probably time to think about trying something else on for size.

2. An entrepreneur is not necessarily born with an “entrepreneurship gene”

Despite what many people might believe, you can teach people to be entrepreneurs, but it takes real passion to put it to use. Here are some tips:

  • Build authentic, enduring relationships with like-minded people based on a shared vision.
  • Earn a credible education in something that you’re passionate about and the world needs more of. 
  • Be an appreciative enquirer and lifelong learner who is always curious about “why” things are and what they might be.
  • Build a tapestry of life experiences to expand your ways of thinking and to build character.
  • Live the courage of your convictions and align to a noble cause the way a compass needle aligns with magnetic north.

3. An entrepreneur is not a job title

Deputy director, chef, lead hand, chief constable, management consultant: these are all examples of job titles. Most of these titles are backed by some kind of job description or competency profile that describes how they add value to the world. Coincidentally, every one of the people doing these jobs can also be entrepreneurs. But that doesn’t mean their business cards should say “entrepreneur.” That’s kind of like putting “thought leader” on your card. It makes me leery. Entrepreneur is not a title — it’s a gift word.

Read more:
Victoria Is a City of Entrepreneurs

 This article is from the February/March 2018 issue