How to be an entrepreneur (or why you shouldn’t be put off by the term)

The media has given the term 'entrepreneur' a specific image that may not always be accurate, argues Tina Boden.

Entrepreneur has always started with the letter ‘E’, in fact the word’s origin is French, dating back to the 19th century, and is derived from entreprendre meaning ‘undertake’. However, though the spelling remains the same, the definition of entrepreneur appears to have changed over recent years. Add to that a number of additional words with ‘preneur’ endings that have found their way in to the English language and there is no wonder many people starting out in business do not understand their identity. In fact those who have been in business for many years, those who thought they knew who or what they were, are also starting to question what they should be known as.

If you take a look at (alternative sources of spelling and grammar aid are available!) you will find the following definition:

Entrepreneur – noun – a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

You cannot argue, looking at that definition, an entrepreneur is anyone that has ever started their own business whether they employ 0 or 1,000 people. When you start out in business you always hope you are going to make a profit but no matter how much market research you do or how robust your business plan is, without customers you have no income and without income there is not a hope of any profit.

Nowhere in the above definition does it state that an entrepreneur has to earn a certain amount of money per year or own a certain number of properties. Why, then, do press, media, government and many of the general public conceive an entrepreneur has to be a millionaire with an expensive car or three, living in a large house that needs an army of staff to maintain it? The ‘new entrepreneur’ should no doubt have not just one house but a number of them in different parts of the world and possibly fly between them in their private jet.

The media influence

You only need to press the power on switch on your remote control in the United Kingdom to discover television channels inundated with reality TV shows. Press and media seems keen to report on either major success or desperate failure. It appears the average man and woman on the street does not make good viewing or publication content unless there is a strong possibility of them making a fool of themselves singing, dancing or pitching a business idea in front of a panel and a television camera.

Of course the panel of judges that will decide whether Mr and Mrs ‘middle-of-the-road’ are going to achieve their dream are those that have already reached the heady heights of success. Admittedly if you read the judges’ autobiographies, (trust me, they will have one, maybe two, and if they haven’t it is likely that it will be in the shops or available to download just before Christmas) these celebrities have been on a journey that has not been without disaster, something that has helped them to become the people they are now. Let me ask you the following though:

1. Are reality TV show judges or investors still in touch with reality?

2. Do judges or investors just want to make money without caring how the outcome affects the individual who is stood before them?

Setting people up to fail seems to be something we are getting good at in the UK, whether it is encouraging business start-up without proper advice and support or giving false hope to thousands and thousands of people who believe they are the 21st century’s answer to The Beatles. Should we not instead be empowering those with a passion, an outstanding talent or a great business idea to give them confidence to move forward and understand any achievement they make is a positive one – surely it is not all about the money but creating a positive image for themselves?

‘E’ is for effort, energy and enjoy

If you are starting out in business, do not be put off by the word entrepreneur, whether you like it or not by definition you are one. Do not feel that being a business owner means that you have to be a multi-millionaire. Remember whatever path you take in life you should have a clear understanding of why you are stepping out on it; whether you are doing it for financial or personal gain, setting down your vision is very important not only when you start up in business but as you go along – a clear personal and business vision is key to knowing if your business needs to change course.

So whether you choose to be one of the following or any other ‘preneur’ word:

  • Mumpreneur – a woman who combines running a business with looking after her children.
  • Dadpreneur – a man who combines running a business with looking after his children.
  • Gradpreneur – a graduate that starts their own business.
  • Olderpreneur – someone that starts their own business when they are over 50.
  • Socialpreneur – someone that starts a business to make both a social difference and a profit.

Or you just choose to stick with the old favourites like sole trader, self-employed, company director or partner my advice is this: running your own business takes a lot of effort and energy but it is important that it is something that you enjoy and that is far more important than any title.

Further reading on entrepreneurship

Related Topics


Leave a comment