What Makes An Entrepreneur?

Recently Forbes magazine ran an interesting article by Christopher Warren-Gash, entitled “2012’s Most Fashionable Term: Entrepreneur. But Are You Really One?”

I’ve been in business on-and-off for myself, for about 25 years, and honestly I didn’t know that the term “entrepreneur” was newly in fashion.

But I’m interested enough in the premise of the article to take a closer look – and ask myself, based on this author’s criteria, am I really an entrepreneur?

As background, I’m a baby-boomer. So I’m probably closer to the end of my professional career than the beginning. I consider myself a small-business owner. And honestly, while I love what I do, I’m not as hungry or ambitious as I was in my 20’s.

With that as context, let’s have a look.

How Jeffrey Measures Up


Point #1: You don’t take reality for granted

What the author says is “reject conventional wisdom and avoid approaching problems as 99% of others would.”

For me, this was especially true when I was younger.

I went down my own path and didn’t listen to those who told me how to become a successful songwriter…and I didn’t become one.

And when I launched my coaching business I came up with some unique ways to promote myself, which allowed me to build a successful practice in relatively short order, while many of my fellow MBA classmates floundered.

In truth, I never really understood or accepted what “reality” was. I trusted my gut, for better or worse.

So I guess Point #1 applies to me, for the most part.

Point #2: You’re kind of a nutter

I don’t think anyone that knows me would call me that.

Smart, talented, sometimes funny. But nutter? Nope.

As a confirmed introvert, I choose playing Scrabble with my wife over taking her dancing (much to her chagrin). I prefer to play my guitar over any other kind of playing.

The way Warren-Gash puts it: “…you’ve got to irrationally believe in your project over all else, you’ve got to have the will to turn down watching the World Series with your buddies in favor of pushing out the latest iteration, you’ve got to be relentless, you’ve got to be obstinate, you’ve got to be a perfectionist.”

Truthfully, none of that applies to me.

I’ve been motivated by my deep-rooted desire for personal fulfillment.

I’m not a perfectionist. I spent too much time when I was younger rowing against the tide and decided at some point to find the river where I could go with the flow more often than not.

Guess I’m not a nutter.

Point #3: You don’t want to work for anybody else

For the most part, this applies to me.

That being said, I’ve spent chunks of my professional life working for others – A&M Records, Ogilvey & Mather – to name a couple you might recognize.

And every one of those experiences was valuable – especially given the timeline of how my career has unfolded.

While I’m certainly at that place now – unwilling to work for others – I can’t say that I had an epiphany about it, or a deep seated longing to be on my own.

It’s been an evolution. And since I’m still evolving, I can’t say that I’ll never work for anyone again…

Point #4: You embrace risk

I don’t think that’s true, for me.

Perhaps pursuing a totally new career direction in my 40’s could be considered risky.

However, I didn’t embrace risk – I confidently moved forward in spite of the risks.

I wasn’t willing to settle for an unfulfilling career, so I made a change.

Point #5: You fervently believe in your project over all else

I’m going to approach this point from a little off center.

My project was me.

I fervently believed it was possible for me to have work where I can make a difference in people’s lives and feel proud of the work I do each day. THAT is what drove me to be entrepreneurial – because I couldn’t find that result any other way.

I feel passionately that I’m doing important work.

So I suppose that Point #5 applies to me.

Point #6: Optimism

He says in the article “I’ve never met an entrepreneur who isn’t the eternal optimist.”

This, again, is tricky for me.

I don’t think my optimism is eternal.

My wife’s is. So I tap into that as often as I need to.

Mine is more situational. Sometimes blood sugar related.

I believe that entrepreneurs, like artists, can be plagued with doubts. They can struggle with their beliefs about what is possible and whether it’s all worth it.

That certainly has been true for me.

Perhaps its my approach that is entrepreneurial, and that might be as entrepreneur as I get.

How do you measure up?