Anyone who knows an entrepreneur fully appreciates that entrepreneurs are a special breed. Even the unusual sound of the word ‘entrepreneur’ gives an early warning of something different. ‘Entrepreneur’ is one of the purely French words that make up 29% of the English language, writes Alan Manly, CEO of Universal Business School Sydney (UBSS) and author of The Unlikely Entrepreneur.
Interestingly, the technical term is borrowed – that is, it’s used without change as opposed to being translated. Another hint of something unusual. The writer Joseph Schumpeter is believed to be the first scholar to introduce the world to the concept of entrepreneurship. Schumpeter is best known for his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy as well as the theory of dynamic economic growth known as creative destruction.
Essentially, entrepreneurship is the prevalence of a unique set of characteristics, much like the word ‘breed’ groups domesticated animals or plants by distinguishable characteristics.
Kingdom without an heir
Unlike other animal “breeds”, entrepreneurship is not expected to be genetically reproduced.
The entrepreneurial trait will most likely expire with its founder, while the actual empire they created will generally be exhausted within the subsequent three generations.
This concept is not new – it has been documented for centuries in the ancient expression “shirt sleeve to shirt sleeve in three generations”.
Entrepreneurs are often labelled ‘special’ – which embraces both the good and bad connotations of the word.
The Urban Dictionary defines ‘good special’ as being “unique, extraordinary”, while ‘bad special’ is defined as “mentally not altogether intact”.
Some who have been in close contact with entrepreneurs would suggest both definitions are applicable to any individual entrepreneur, depending on the occasion.
Entrepreneurs have their status as “good special” confirmed when they are at their most successful. Some become minor celebrities (perhaps even larger celebrities in their own mind), leading to ostentatious behavior that is the stereotype which cements in the public mind the word “special”.
Then of course there is the bad special. Entrepreneurs attracting this label are often brazenly reckless with other people’s money – treating it with the same casual respect as the game Monopoly – only to find that society responds with a firm “Go to Jail” card.
To be successful, according to entrepreneurial wisdom, you must first have had a business or two crash and burn. Be grateful these folks don’t fly aircraft!
This embracement of failure stands starkly at odds with virtually every other field, where success is built on achievements rather than failures.
Afterall, students don’t earn qualifications by failing their studies; doctors aren’t respected for the number of patients who die in their care; actors don’t win Oscars from unconvincing performances in films that flop.
Appetite for risk
Unlike the general populous, keen to defend their lot from external attack, entrepreneurs are major risk takers. And they attract investors, Pied Piper-like, to take risks with them.
The instrument to risk their money is often a business plan or, down the track, a prospectus that warns in bold print “all care and absolutely no responsibility”.
Even with such a disclaimer, investors still follow.
Investors who lost their money in past failures are often given a front seat to the next venture. This is what in gambling circles is called doubling down.
I’ve previously written in this publication about how people with obsessive-compulsive tendencies make excellent entrepreneurs.
They possess a combination of tenacity (like a dog with a bone) and resilience in the face of those early aforementioned failures.
At heart is a businessperson seeking control over (or even against) the odds to bring their vision to life.
Throw in a dose of what I call rat cunning – like the fox who diligently scopes out its prey and awaits the ideal opportunity to strike – and you have all the makings of one of these special people called some French word that few can spell without considerable practice: an entrepreneur.
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