What is the definition of entrepreneur?

One of the most interesting debates in the past decade is around the definition of an entrepreneur.

Some experts take a very narrow position by saying an entrepreneur is only someone whose business idea can scale to national reach, like the founders of Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. Others cast a much wider net to include anyone who takes a business risk.

Here is my very broad definition: An entrepreneur attempts to create a new product, service or solution while accepting responsibility for the results.

Notice this definition doesn’t refer to profit or equity or even business. But it does infer what I consider the following critical elements of entrepreneurship, including a relationship with the abiding twins of any entrepreneurial endeavor – success and failure.

Ownership: Whether in the literal equity sense, as in business ownership, or an entrepreneurial employee who takes initiative and assumes ownership of the performance of a team or project, entrepreneurship does not happen unless someone takes ownership of execution and results.

Courage: This is the backbone of entrepreneurial behavior because the stakes are always high. Failure can manifest in many forms, including financial loss, professional setbacks and personal embarrassment. Nothing entrepreneurial happens until conviction raises the level of courage above the fear of failure.

Curiosity: Curiosity is the face of entrepreneurship because the eyes see what isn’t there, the ears hear sounds others miss, the nose smells opportunity, and the mouth asks “What if?” There are many business owners who are not curious, but there are no entrepreneurs who aren’t driven by curiosity.

Vision: A futurist is someone who makes a living connecting the dots into a picture before it is evident to others. Entrepreneurs are futurists when they envision an opportunity or solution associated with their industry, discipline or assignment.

Risk: Successful entrepreneurs are not foolhardy; they gauge their risk tolerance based on the potential emotional, professional and financial costs. Entrepreneurs take risks knowing that whether they succeed or fail, they will learn something useful.

Redemption: Plans often don’t go as envisioned. Successfully resetting and refocusing – for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial employees – requires an answer to the most powerful question in the quest for entrepreneurial excellence: “What did we learn?”

The 21st century needs all kinds of entrepreneurs.

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2 Responses to “What is the definition of entrepreneur?”

  1. 2
    Jim Blasingame Says:

    Thanks, Charleen. It’s interesting to observe the politics of entrepreneurship. Someone once said that an economist is someone who sees something happening in reality and wonders if it would work in theory. That’s how I feel about academics and technocrats when they talk about a narrow definition of entrepreneurship. Keep up the good work. Jim

  2. 1
    Charleen Larson Says:

    “An entrepreneur attempts to create a new product, service or solution while accepting responsibility for the results.” I like your definition best, probably because it is inclusive rather than exclusive.

    It’s absurd to say you can only be considered an entrepreneur if your venture can be scaled. The large internet companies of today weren’t built exclusively on the blood, sweat, tears and capital of the founders; there were VCs coming in to help, often at a quite early stage.

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