Are You a Real Entrepreneur?
Today it seems like everybody is an entrepreneur. At least everybody I meet. But people in tech used to be more respectful of this title. They treated entrepreneurs as someone special. People called by God,
If you are out of work, you are an entrepreneur. If you don't like your job, you are an entrepreneur. If you have an idea for a software product or a service, you are an entrepreneur. If you simply desire to be self-employed, you are an entrepreneur. Even if you are in search of a good idea, you are an entrepreneur.
Over the years, I've had the honor of working with a few real entrepreneurs. And I've lived a life impacted by many real entrepreneurs. The big ones like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Charles Wang, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marc Benioff.
And also the southeast locals like Richard Brock, Chris Klaus, Ben Dyer, Glen Robinson, Dennis Hays, Pete Petit, Tyco Howle, Said Mohammadion, Tripp Rackley, Jeff Arnold, Allen Dabbiere, Jeff Sprecher, and David Cummings to name a few. (I apologize if I left you or a favorite of yours off the list as these were just the people who came to mind while I was writing this article.)
Besides the obvious (they are all very successful), what makes these people real entrepreneurs?
Some believe being an entrepreneur is about ideas, and it is. But ideas are just the beginning for an entrepreneur. It is the vision he sees beyond the idea that defines him as an entrepreneur. And his vision always begets a company.
All of us have ideas. That is the way God made us. We are the only species that creates. We are all made in the image of God. As the Bible says, "In the image of God he created them." But it is what we do with ideas that define us.
If we do nothing but talk about the idea, we are a dreamer.
If we work on making the idea into a product, we are an inventor.
If we work to prove the idea is viable, we are a researcher.
But if the idea results in a vision that promises to change people's lives, then we see the beginnings of an entrepreneur.
The vision is the first step in building a company. It is not the idea. Make no mistake here. It is the vision. And starting a company based on that vision makes a person an entrepreneur.
Starting a company is all about making people's lives better and eventually making a profit doing it. There must be both impact and sustainability. And to do this at scale, the entrepreneur must start a company. It is the only structure we currently have in our society to accomplish both of these objectives at scale.
And to build a company to scale, the entrepreneur must start by attracting these three people.
This next step in starting a company requires the entrepreneur to go public with the idea and the vision. To get it out of his head. To talk about it. To put it in pictures. To describe what life could be like, if. To get people to understand. To get them excited about it. To get them repeating it and talking about it. To get them to believe it as the entrepreneur believes it. To have them join in the mission and help make the vision a reality.
Everyone today says they are an entrepreneur. Few, in my judgment, really are. Most of these people need to get a job. Others might start a company as a small business owner, a lifestyle business. But the entrepreneur is far different. When I meet an entrepreneur I am captured by what might be. His excitement is like a virus. I catch it without knowing I got it. Then I want in. I see it. I want to help. I want to be a part of the journey.
The few entrepreneurs I met in my career all took these steps to prove they are, in fact, real entrepreneurs.
This is the gauntlet they walk. This is the path. And in most cases, this path is not chosen. The entrepreneur really had no choice. They had an idea that resulted in a vision to change the world. It captured them. It owned them. How could they not do it? How could they not dedicate their lives to it? They can't stop thinking about it. They can't stop talking about it.
They just do it.
This is what I call a real entrepreneur.