What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
Some people joke that it means you live with your mom and don’t have a job. Some people imagine two sisters running a lemonade stand on their street corner. Or maybe you imagine Steve Jobs, who dropped out of college to build what is close to becoming the world’s first trillion-dollar company.
No matter what comes to your mind when you think about entrepreneurs, one thing is certain: they are different.
They see the world as it could be, not as it is.
I personally think that the very definition of the word can mean different things, because of the nature of the people it applies to.
For example, when I was 14 years old I worked for my dad’s insurance agency. People called me an entrepreneur. Why? “Look at you! Working away answering the phone so professionally! You are such an entrepreneur!” Does answering the phone make me an entrepreneur? For a 14-year-old? Maybe.
When I was 17 I purchased the business of one of my competitors, and people called me an entrepreneur. They reasoned that anyone who has the business sense to be able to buy-out a competing business must be an entrepreneur.
Finally, when I dropped out of college people called me an entrepreneur. They said, “oh! You’ll be just like Bill Gates! Conquering the world without your degree!”
If you noticed, these examples are very different from each other. Not every 14-year-old kid answering phones grows up to change the world, and not every business owner who has purchased another business had become Henry Ford.
I prefer to think of an analogy that I heard a few years ago. My dad and I took a trip up to the cities from Sauk Centre, MN to interview an old college roommate of his. I was interviewing as many successful people as possible (I still do) to cultivate my mind and ambitions for my future success.
His name was John, and he worked for a large firm that was growing like wildfire. I don’t recall what position he held exactly, but it was C-level and in the accounting department. I started the conversation asking him about entrepreneurship, how his company had grown so much, and how I could be where he was someday, and he gave me an answer that surprised me.
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"You know… I think that you have two different ideas of what an entrepreneur is. The one that most people think of is the guy who started a company, works weekends, and commits his life to his business. He is the guy who looks at his competitor and says, “I can shovel dirt faster than you can!”
The entrepreneur you seem to want to be is the kind who looks at his competitor and says, “you can shovel dirt, I’ll use a steam shovel.”
That really hit me. I didn’t really think about it like that before. I always thought that your skill in entrepreneurship was measured by the dollars in your bank account. If that’s the case, anybody who works extra hours or has two jobs or a high paying Ph.D is more versed in entrepreneurship than others.
Want to meet an entrepreneur?
Look for someone using a steam shovel.
I hold myself from correcting people who say, “Warren Buffett is one of the best entrepreneurs of our time!”
Is he? I could be wrong, but I think of Warren as more of an investor than an entrepreneur. I see him as more of the man buying under-priced companies that entrepreneurs and businessmen have started.
I would go as far to say that some people are entrepreneurs even if they don’t know it!
I think that the first guy to jump onboard with the founder to build Snapchat is more entrepreneurial than someone who started an auto repair shop on their own.
Entrepreneurship is a measurement of your dare to be different. It’s a measurement of doing something that no one has thought of, or being a part of something that not everyone will think work.
Entrepreneurship could not be better summed up than by one of it’s own best:
“So here’s to the crazy ones, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones that do.” –Steve Jobs
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