2Apr
Image of group of entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship Isn’t For Everyone

Image of group of entrepreneursIt’s been quite remarkable to watch entrepreneurship move its way up the popularity scale. For the past 17 years I’ve been a founder, partner, shareholder or investor in a variety of companies both large and small. During the vast majority of those years it wasn’t particularly popular to be an entrepreneur. The career of choice was to do “traditional” things like doctor, lawyer, consultant, accountant, engineer or investment banker. Even being a pharmaceutical salesman or a stock broker was a preferable choice to entrepreneur. I can see why they seemed like better options. In comparison, I was just a guy in Utah trying to start some random business. It wasn’t cool to be an entrepreneur.

Not anymore. Entrepreneurship is the new career of choice.


Why? In part because it is easier than it ever has been to be an entrepreneur. The tools available, the capital available, the access to a worldwide marketplace, social media, mobile platforms and other factors have made being an entrepreneur completely available. With the help of enormous media hype, a lot of books on the subject, and some legitimate mass wealth being publicly created – it’s now cool to be an entrepreneur. These types of things make it easy to understand entrepreneurs meteoric rise in popularity. It seems like anyone can be an entrepreneur nowadays, right?

Wrong.

While there have been a bunch of advances that make entrepreneurship more available, I don’t think it means more entrepreneurs should be produced. It is not for everyone, regardless of whether or not it is easier to do. Some things are the same now as they were 17 years ago, such as:

Are you able to take decisive action? Asking the right questions, getting the right data, doing so quickly, and then making a solid decision. Is this you? It doesn’t matter how lean your startup is, whether you are an agile developer, a mobile app enthusiast, have a killer SaaS model, or follow every startup queen on Twitter. If you don’t know how to ask good questions, put together solid data, and make smart decisions it doesn’t matter if it is 1999 or 2099 – you shouldn’t chase entrepreneurship.

Who is your significant other? Read this post and make sure you have a relationship that supports owning your own business.

Are you already headed down another career path? If so, what makes you think you should change now? Is it because a neighbor, friend, co-worker or classmate asked you to? Did you read something? Or were you truly inspired to do something?

Do you really, truly have a great business idea? Do you have some people willing to pay for it that aren’t friends and family? Do you have customers that are actively engaged in your beta? Do you have something that shows someone other than yourself believes in what your product service (that isn’t related to you or one of your friends)? Look yourself in the mirror and admit to yourself if you don’t. You know the truth. Don’t be afraid to admit it.

Is your passion for your idea/business/startup so strong that you just cannot see straight? Does it consistently keep you up at night, do you do the work it takes, does it almost consume you in an unhealthy way? This passion (never ending, deeply rooted and simply a part of who you are) can be faked I suppose, but you’d only be fooling yourself. Is your passion palpable? Is it real? Is it lasting? Things get lonely so your passion has to be as real as it gets.

I have solid ownership in some great companies. I have investments in others that I’m proud of. I’ve been doing this for 17 years. While I am certainly not even close to the best entrepreneur I know, I do have the battle scars (and some successes) to have earned my stripes. I’m hoping that more people will really think thru the TYPE of entrepreneur they want to be. It can fit a lot of different shapes and sizes, but please, don’t just do it to be one of the new cool kids. There is too much at stake to chase it for the wrong reasons.

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • It’s funny you posted this today. I created a group several years ago on LinkedIn for Entrepreneurs. I continue to moderate the group for people who want to join to keep out spammers and sales people. I just tweeted this morning about how being in ‘Business Development’ seems to now mean you’re an entrepreneur. When did that happen? There seems to be a subliminal mentality that if you’re in a position where you develop partnerships, or simply do sales, that it’s entrepreneurship. I’m not an amazing entrepreneur, but I have been starting businesses and building them for 8 years now, and it’s not just business development for someone else. I’m not trying to be an exclusive member of a club, but I totally agree that it fees like the pendulum is swinging.

    • Alex Lawrence

      @Chris – That is crazy. A business development EMPLOYEE is an entrepreneur now? Uh, no. Love your last sentence “I’m not trying to be an exclusive member of a club…” – agreed.

  • Curtis howe

    As someone who has spent a lot of time in direct sales I agree that the term entrepreneur is loosely used to describe anyone who has their own business. Being an entrepreneur is quite different from having a business. I like the way Robert Kiyosaki discusses the difference by stating a self employed person owns their job where as a business owner owns a system that they maintain. I have been building businesses for almost 10 years now and agree that it is not a journey for most people to undergo. Following entrepreneurs would be the ultimate reality tv show. The best advice I’ve heard for people to do is keep their job and start a part time business on the side. Something on the Internet or network marketing. This way they can have an income and build wealth. If that seems not too bad then start a serious business and holdmon for the ride of your life.

    • Alex Lawrence

      @Curtis – thanks for taking the time to comment here my friend. I think anyone that has their own business can be “entrepreneurial”. If it is on the side, or for fun or extra income or the like, it is again entrepreneurial in nature. That is not being an entrepreneur though. Until it is your sole source of income, by choice, for an extended period of time – it is just an entrepreneurial hobby or investment. I do think someone that is truly self employed though is an entrepreneur. Steve Blank calls them small business entrepreneurs. Again though, that’s assuming it is how they derive their primary income. If it’s owning a small flower shop they work in every day, then great, they are a small business entrepreneur. Thanks goodness for them too!

  • So the question remains, what distinguishes the “fakers” and the real entrepreneurs? Does it mean you have to start something from scratch alone? Does it mean you join a start-up and push it to it’s limits? Does it mean you create a blog and blog every week? What does it mean? I’m interested in your thoughts for the next post.

    • Alex Lawrence

      @Dustin – good to hear from you! No, you don’t have to start it from scratch or alone in my opinion. Creating a blog can be entrepreneurial if it becomes a real business that you rely on for your main source of income. If it’s a hobby, and side income, while you work somewhere else – then no. It’s entrepreneurial in nature, but alas, you are not an entrepreneur unless you have some real risk and commitment in the game…

  • Bryson

    Excited to hear your next plans. But please don’t tell me you’re gonna run for president, because THAT is starting to pass the coolness pendulum as well. (although, you could probably buy my vote if you’d like)

  • Awesome post Alex! Transitioning to an entrepreneur is not a new thing. Even baby boomers are starting their own business, so that they can be their own boss. I’d been an amount of fee is required before anybody enter the entrepreneurship world, I guess people will start thinking twice before making that decision. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, people fail to think twice before putting on the entrepreneurship hat. My advice is “think twice” before you become an entrepreneur. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • I think that every person can become an entrepreneur. I think that the main task is to find your cup of tea. Do the business you know and you like. Hardworking and patience are also highly appreciated and never give up. One day all your efforts will be crowned with succcess.

  • Great topic, here, Alex. After interviewing Joe Abraham, author of “Entrepreneurial DNA,” my mind has kind of changed on this topic. It might be that everyone has a little entrepreneur in them — it’s just some people are better suited to be a consultant, some are better starting a franchise, some are better developing a cool product, service, etc. All those options aren’t great for everyone; different people have different strengths, etc.

    There are so many avenues for being an entrepreneur today, that perhaps it’s more about what type of business, and what type of risk, can you start and be successful at? By the way, fascinating interview with Joe Abraham, if you want to listen: http://www.lendio.com/blog/entrepreneur-addiction-podcast-5/

     

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