Introduction – Entrepreneurial Traits
“If you are not centre stage of your own opportunity, then you are probably just a bit player in someone elses’ PB
The word ‘entrepreneur’ is derived from the Old French word ‘entreprendre’ which was first used by the economic ‘theorist’ Richard Cantillon in 1755 in an essay where he used this term to describe a person who assumed the risk of buying goods in the belief that they could sell them at a higher price at a later time. So, the term in French was used to describe ‘one who undertakes’ this particular risk.
Strictly speaking, the natural English equivalent of this description would be an ‘Undertaker’. However, since that particular role in English society preceded the role of the person described above, the English language thought it prudent to borrow the French term to describe this new and rather different undertaking.
Anthropology, social science, economic and management academics continue to argue about the definition of the term because the role of entrepreneur is so multi-faceted and it incorporates so many disciplines with researchers from psychologists, sociologists, historians, finance experts, organizational scholars and the like adding their influences to the debate.
Whilst researchers debate the definition of the term, the rest of us, if asked, could easily identify an entrepreneur and would probably include at least one of the following: Bill Gates, Anita Roddick, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Donald Trump, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey or even the Australian Dick Smith. Journalists have also been quick to place that tag on many of the colourful corporate high flyers who have made incredible wealth in the world of business, many at the expense of others and sometimes, if not outside their country’s governing laws, then quite possibly outside their moral ones. I believe that entrepreneurs and these business people are two different species who operate in the same sphere, but do so with a completely different mindset.
“Not all businessmen go down the drain because I have met quite a few coming up the other way” PB
Entrepreneurial Traits and Mindset
Either way, I think that the tag entrepreneur is of a lesser relevance in the 21st century to the one of being entrepreneurial, because the latter describes a mindset that is actually a prerequisite to performing the role of entrepreneur. Being entrepreneurial does not mean that you always choose the entrepreneurial outlook but rather, that you make decisions in your life with an entrepreneurial bias. Because, like the Chinese philosophy of duality (ying-yang), I believe that life is not so much an either/or proposition but rather a blended, complimentary combination of the two opposing influences.
So, whilst I acknowledge that adopting the attitude at either end of these issues listed below may at times be appropriate – an entrepreneurial bias in decision making will choose, whenever possible, the former rather than the latter in this ‘ying-yang’ list of options:
Longing to Pioneer Vs Administer
A drive to be Creative Vs Conform
Seeing failure as a Setback Vs a Defeat
Valuing Experiences Vs physical Assets
To seek a life of Significance Vs Compliance
Delivering Excellence Vs just the Requirements
Being at peace with an Open Vs a Distinct future
Exercising an Opportunistic Vs Minimalist mindset
Exercising Initiative Vs being Reactive in your actions
Look for the Big picture Vs a Detailed understanding
Seeking to Learn from Vs actively Avoiding the possibility of failure
To choose a position of Leadership Vs Non-involvement
Being Wholehearted Vs Reserved in your commitment
Disciplined by an Internal Drive Vs External Control
Being Accountable Vs Non-committal for outcomes
Doing it the Right way Vs Doing it the Easiest way
To choose a Long term Vs a Short Term outlook
Always Investing Vs Conserving your energy
Seeing success as a Lifestyle Vs Milestone
Looking to Solve Vs Identify problems
To seek out Challenges Vs Sanctuary
A need for Achievement Vs Status
Summary – Entrepreneurial Traits
Maybe the term entrepreneur should rightly just belong to highly innovative and wealthy global identities like those listed above, but all of us should be acknowledged for being entrepreneurial when ever our outlook, choices and positioning matches the first in the options list above. The way I see it, the more entrepreneurial you can be the greater your chances will be of firstly identifying your opportunity and secondly actually having the skills to exploit it when fate delivers it to your door. Who knows, maybe by choosing to be more entrepreneurial from today we may one day also add our name to the great entrepreneurs listed above.