The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an “entrepreneur” as: “one who organizes, manages and assumes the risk of a business or enterprise”. Really? I am left completely underwhelmed, as this definition falls short at so many levels. So, for the 30,000 people that are searching Google each month for the definition of what is an entrepreneur, this post is for you.
A RISK TAKER
The primary thing the above definition got right was the concept of an entrepreneur being a risk taker in business. Often times they are investing their savings, taking out loans or quitting safer corporate jobs to take a flyer on an unknown adventure, where the odds of success and long term financial gains are very low (although they don’t fully appreciate that at the time, and are typically very bullish on their idea). Despite the 1 in 10 odds of building a long term winner, they follow their gut and gear up for the long road ahead, hoping for a long-term payday down the road.
Creativity and innovation ooze out of the pores of an entrepreneur. They see things in ways most other people do not see them. They are not focused on the now, they are focused on the tomorrow. They are looking for solutions to today’s problems, that can better drive revenues, lower costs, buid a better product or improve customer experience in the future. This is true whether the person is launching a brand new startup or is a Chief Innovation Officer inside a major corporation, as entrepreneurs can come in all shapes and sizes.
It takes really special skills to line up co-founders, employees, investors, clients and partners to rally around a very risky undertaking. A person with terrific communications and sales skills that can sell their vision to the people that will help to make it a success. Let’s call this being the Cheerleader in Chief for the company. Entrepreneurs typically suffocate with the thought of being buried doing one small role inside a big small company, where they prefer to lead, than follow the leadership of others.
If you run at the first bit of headwind you experience, entrepreneurship is not for you. Good entrepreneurs know that building startups is two steps forward and one step back, the entire way. When they are staring over the edge of a financial abyss, as capital for next week’s payroll is not available, they buckle up and find a way. That said, sometimes entrepreneurs can be persistent to a fault, and they need to be smart enough to know when “enough is enough”, and to take the learnings from one failed startup to succeed in their next.
I have always said running a startup company is materially harder than running a big company, despite the fact enterprise CEO’s make millions of dollars a year, and most early stage executives are unable to draw a salary. A startup executive needs to be a good jack-of-all-trades, not afraid to jump into the details, rolling up their own sleeves and making it happen. And, whether that is doing glamorous tasks, like pitching clients or investors, or menial tasks, like changing lightbulbs, they really do it all, instilling confidence and creating enthusiasm in their wake.
So, dust off your capes, climb to the top of the nearest skyscraper (e.g., your startup idea), and take the leap!! With a little bit of luck, an aerodynamic suit and your team of fellow superheroes, you just might defy gravity and see your success take flight.
This article was originally published on Red Rocket VC, a consulting and financial advisory firm with expertise in serving the startup, digital and venture community.
Image credit: CC by Steven Depolo