A number of questions surround the word "entrepreneur." Is one born with the qualities to become an entrepreneurial success or does one learn the skills from mentors and other successful entrepreneurs? What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? And who exactly possesses the qualities to become one? These days, people love to make the claim "I'm an entrepreneur." What this all too often means is that they simply want to make a lot of money fast, without enduring the drudgery of climbing the corporate ladder. This is naïve. One fact I know for sure, entrepreneurs are resilient, passionate creatures who thrive in the wild.
In my journey as an entrepreneur, I have encountered three different groups of "entrepreneurs". The first group of individuals are the "true entrepreneurs", who by definition have that lean and hungry look for at least the first three years after starting their business. They are the Futon Warriors. The Top Ramen Ninjas. Every extra dime goes into growing their business, and no sacrifice or risk is too great. A true entrepreneur is not in love with money; the true entrepreneur is in love with an idea. In Phase One of the entrepreneurial cycle, it's just you and your Big Idea. Phase Two is the period of quantum leap growth, where you start to shape the brand and guide the company story according to your vision. Phase Three is where the rapid growth slows, and development and management of the brand requires the full focus of the growing team. This process is not for the faint of heart. Many people set out thinking it's what they want; but the terrain proves too rough for many.
The entrepreneurial path is not for everyone. However, one can possess entrepreneurial qualities without having to start their own company. I call this group of individuals "intrepreneurs", clever, creative doers who apply entrepreneurial techniques within the structure of a company where they are employed. In an attempt to create an energetic force-field within the usually sluggish metabolism of a conventional corporate structure, intrepreneurs can sometimes create new systems, new streams of revenue or new departments within a company. Like great blues-singers, they do the equivalent of playing between the notes to find unique spaces so their creativity may prosper, and in turn allowing a company to grow.
The third group I've encountered are the "want-trepreneurs". Often times these individuals are formerly high-paid employees who have been let go by their companies for one reason or another. They view their unemployment as an opportunity to start their own company and be the boss of their own schedule. But that's where it ends. Want-trepreneurs are driven purely by money. If they have a good idea, it will never become a success because the source of their motivation is purely the dollars they hope to gain from it. True entrepreneurs are crazy-in love with their idea and their work, and no sacrifice or challenge is too great in order to achieve their dream.
I hear "want-trepreneur" stories from the field all the time. A former skin therapist says she wants to develop a classroom program for schoolchildren on acne care. She needs to write an educational manual which can be used in the schools, and doesn't do it because (sigh, eye-roll) it's too draining." End of story.
A woman released from a high-level position has an idea for an executive motivational program. She visualizes herself giving a TED Talk. But when her business partner suggests doing a trial run-through of the program at a friend's company up the coast -- an unpaid audition, as it were -- the want-trepreneur responds that she is too tired to travel. Ironically --she's not motivated enough by her idea and lacks the passion and resilience to see it through.
Without batting an eye, true entrepreneurs will drive all night and sleep on a friend's couch if it means the opportunity to present their idea to someone who will listen. Hear that howling? That's the sound of an entrepreneur who's just jumped the fence and is out into the wild, on the prowl, earning her full-moon status.