So you have decided that you are an entrepreneur. You have started your journey into the unknown and have spread your wings. After a few months you recruit a few staff members; your business is growing. You have staff and financial responsibilities to people other than yourself. Does that mean that you are no longer an entrepreneur; but rather a small business owner?
I guess the answer to this question has a lot to do with how we define an entrepreneur. One of the best definitions I have seen comes from Harvard Business School professor Howard Stevenson which states:
Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.
This makes entrepreneurship: a process; a way of thinking; an attitude. It makes it more of an ideal and a way of doing things than a title. Personally I feel too many people are calling themselves “entrepreneurs” as a status because they like the connotations that surround it.
This brings me back to my question. When is an entrepreneur no longer an entrepreneur?
Does it happen when you reach a certain level in your organisation? In which case is Bill Gates – the entrepreneurial founder of Microsoft – no longer an entrepreneur because he built and ran a huge multi-national organisation with millions of staff and a listing on the stock exchange?
One could argue that Microsoft themselves (sorry to pick on them) are no longer entrepreneurial in nature. They have lost a lot of their agile and decisive drivers as a corporate. Their business direction is determined by a board and their products are systematic and predictable. Granted there are definitely pockets of entrepreneurship within the international corporate; but their core is certainly no longer so.
So if it is not about your level within an organisation; nor about the size of the organisation; when does entrepreneurialism end?
Quite simply; I feel that entrepreneurialism ends when complacency becomes the norm. When you lose the drive and determination to grow and to make things better. Then you are no longer entrepreneurial.
Entrepreneurs challenge the status quo; not just for the sake of it; but for the sake of leaving something bigger and better behind. Complacency is the antithesis of being an entrepreneur.
Complacency in business is counterproductive and incredibly obvious. It manifests as a bloated organisation that is slow to react to changes and client needs; there is a lack of urgency in product and service delivery and when looking at processes, staff will typically respond, ” we do it like this because we’ve always done it this way”.
Very often entrepreneurial flare is lost when a small business scales because the fire and spirit of “why” the business began is simply not there. This cuts to the core of many entrepreneurs business stories. They either don’t grow for fear of losing their entrepreneurial advantage; or they scale incorrectly and bloat in the process.
This is when you stop being an entrepreneur. It is the point when you make the conscious or unconscious decision to stay exactly where you are for fear of breaking what you have.
The good news is that it is a decision. There are ways of scaling entrepreneurialism. Many have been incredibly successful in doing so – the trick is to make sure that you don’t think of being an entrepreneur as a destination – it is a journey – a process.