For some, the word conjures up images of success, of inherent talent coupled with ambition and drive (the likes of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and even Beyoncé); yet, for others, an entrepreneur is simply out for his own wealth and success, whatever the expense may be to others (The Social Network movie certainly did little to dispel this stereotype with its depiction of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg – despite his contradictory philanthropic work since).
The latter misconception is just one of many – we’re about to set the record straight with the big three:
Entrepreneurs never fail
Entrepreneurs have benefitted from a middle-of-the-night brainwave that no-one else has ever thought of before and then BOOM! THEY’RE AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS! The money is pouring in and they’re sitting pretty smug and toasting to how clever they are.
Which happened to no-one. Ever. This common misconception leads to a very debilitating mindset in believing that overnight success is possible. The truth is that it can take years to become a success. Too many young, eager minds study the success story instead of the origin of that success story, which often includes many, many, massive struggles prior to the breakthrough. There is testing, updates and plenty of learnings that precede the successful outcomes we hear of. In fact, entrepreneurs continue to fail and to learn as they develop the brand and their brand’s offerings – look at the failed brand extension of Virgin with Virgin Cola, for example, or Virgin Brides (admittedly, the name wasn’t perhaps best lent to the bridal market…)
Entrepreneurship is 10 percent idea and 90 percent execution and the majority of entrepreneurs’ ideas change and evolve over time. The real success comes from how entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes and how they then execute their vision and make adjustments as necessary. Without failure, an entrepreneur will rarely be successful – and certainly won’t be successful for very long – as the market changes and modern day developments challenge their ideas as well as the execution of these ideas.
Entrepreneurs are born, not made
Though there are certain innate personality traits that predispose an individual to becoming an entrepreneur, these traits certainly aren’t static and tend to change and evolve over time, indeed it is often nurture, rather than nature, which plays an essential role in how these traits will pan out. The reality is, that with enough perseverance, effort and hard work, anyone can become an entrepreneur should they so wish. This also blows another entrepreneurial myth out of the water: that they sit around all day doing no work, or working very little work at a time that suits them. Entrepreneurs are running their own business, aware that they are only going to get out, what they put in, and as a result are often unable to switch off at all.
Entrepreneurship is a process that can be learned and practice certainly makes perfect. As a profession, it is not a science or an art, but uses innovations as the key means to create value. Entrepreneurs are a small minority of businessmen because most businesses tend not to add any new value. Take the evolution, for example, of McDonalds (yes, even the burger industry had its entrepreneurs – contradicting yet a further myth that the term ‘entrepreneur’ applies only to start-up tech companies). Hamburgers had been sold for hundreds of years (give or take…) but it was the entrepreneur Ray Kroch who brought new value to the industry by standardizing the product, production, and service. He used the same resources as had always been used (to an extent, but we’re not here to debate McDonalds practices)—meat, potatoes, and bread—but responded to the changing market and demands for innovation in order to build what is an international superbrand today. It is this response to circumstance that makes an entrepreneur.
Look also to Henry Ford and his ever quoted cited quote, ““If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” His development of the assembly line to create durable, mass-market automobiles at a significantly lower price than his competitors changed the motor industry. Ford took an established market and simply made it better and companies such as Apple, Skype, Amazon and many others have since followed. Were all these great innovators simply ‘born’ entrepreneurs? Debatable.
Entrepreneurs are all young and carefree
There is a belief that if you have three kids, a mortgage and bills to pay that you’re never going to realise your entrepreneurial dreams because you simply can’t afford the risk. In fact, many entrepreneurs do start later in life, having learned (as outlined above) some of the crucial skills required to succeed.
On hearing the word “entrepreneur”, many people simply picture the likes of Mark Zuckerburg, Steve Jobs or other tech giants. In reality, the vast majority of entrepreneurs went to college, got started later in life and are not natural-born tech geniuses. Also, by a later stage in life you will have a greater understanding of risk. Entrepreneurs are exceptionally good at appreciating, managing and reducing risks. Though many of their endeavors may appear risky to outsiders, in fact, a good entrepreneur will have everything calculated and under control. At a later life stage you will also be more experienced in discipline and in working with a team (no-one can do absolutely everything on their own, not even the most entrepreneurial of entrepreneurs! There isn’t time in the day to do all that is required, and then clean the office too…)
Additionally, the more you have to lose can quite often make you all the more determined to succeed. As a young, carefree, idea-driven individual you have little to lose so can perhaps take more risks, but this does not mean that you will have a higher success rate, necessarily.
The reality is there is no ‘one size fits all’ mould. Some entrepreneurs did have that sudden eureka moment; some are very young and inexperienced yet successful and yes; perhaps there were a few extreme risk-takers whose plucky courage did pay off. But the fact of the matter is simple: entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, and rightly so, just as their businesses do too.
Image Credit: By TechCrunch [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons