This week we were in our screen printing shop preparing to fill an order when my partner, Bruce Ackerman, had a random thought. He said something to the effect of, “dude did you ever think about the fact that we’re entrepreneurs?”
I gave him the side eye before replying, “ya think?”
“I guess it’s true. But I am not comfortable using that word. It sounds weird,” said Bruce.
Now, I can kind of sympathize with the weird part. After he mentioned it I started to think about how many times I told somebody I was an entrepreneur, or anything remotely close to such a description. Then it occurred to me that I just about never said that word outright and at most said ‘I have a business.’ Even then I generally reduced said business to a serious hobby, turned into a business largely for legal reasons!
It was then that I realized Bruce had a point. Sorry for the side eye. I continued to delve into my own use of the word. I realized that I put it in writing fairly often. It is the easiest way to convey what I do. One word encompasses a lot. But when talking to someone in person It occurred to me that I preferred to explain some of my ventures in depth, probably in an attempt to make them seem more mundane.
Subconsciously, I think I relate entrepreneurship with somewhat of a rebellious, if not rogue image. And I do not think of myself as rebellious or roguish. My guess would be that a fair portion of society views the term in a similar light. Risk takers who prefer not to fit the mold that most of the population chooses to fall in line with. This may be where my self-image and entrepreneurship break off.
I don’t think there is anything roguish or daring about being an entrepreneur. I see it as another path that people take in life. Now we may have some characteristics that emerge more often than others but we aren’t always trail blazers. To me, anybody who recognizes and leverages the value of themselves, or creates an entity that adds value to the lives of others could be considered entrepreneurial.
The person who owns your local barbershop, hair or tanning salon is an entrepreneur. What’s so different about that? Nothing to me. They are just small business owners. I probably view myself more along those lines, in terms of pure relational factors. But they really are one in the same. The barber took the same chances starting his own shop as the software engineer who developed a new technology and got venture capital to back his or her idea. But one seems more glamorous or daring than the other, right?
Why is that? I think it is because if we acknowledged such reality on a regular basis it would take away from the aura that comes with being an entrepreneur. We like to think that entrepreneurs are rare. They come along once in a while and must have some special ingredients that they channel to invent, design, and innovate. It’s true that entrepreneurship spawns great invention and innovation, but it is also the foundation of our society and an essence of everyday living. We use the services of entrepreneurs everyday, and we often know them personally. But it rarely dawns on us.
We should recognize this and take advantage of the opportunity we have to help each other grow and learn. We often think we have to reach out to some guru via the internet or buy a book to get advice about our startup or idea. How about talking to the local McDonald’s franchise owner, or picking the brain of your insurance agent? They may have a word of wisdom or two for you as well.