Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship

One small syllable shouldn’t make much of a difference after all, but it does. To me at least. I may be misled by arrogance, for I have not been successful enough in my ventures to claim the right to judge others. But still, it annoys me. And if you’ve met any of my fellow Frenchmen, you know that one way or another I’ll need to voice my discontent (“Sacrebleu!”). So be it.

One more hop over the Pacific, two weeks ago, knees stuck to the front seat, face pressed against the screen. I was killing time, remembering once again why I can’t seem to sleep on planes, especially now that I’m a full time sober. Half way through The Iron Lady, I pause on a quote attributed to Mrs Thatcher:

It used to be about trying to do something; now it’s about trying to be someone.

This. Exactly this. An articulated way of explaining why I roll my eyes when landing on yet another blog post from a “serial entrepreneur”, proud CEO of himself and former CTO of his custom Wordpress blog. Or when I run into the founder of a “disruptive startup”, pivoting to a new model that will once and for all, the founder assures me, secure his place in the pantheon of startup CEOs, forever the equal of the Zuckerbergs and Pincus’ of this world.

I was taught at an early age that really, only two things mattered;

  1. Be smart,
  2. Don’t be a smart ass about it,

Legacy of my father. And like good wine, it only gets better with age.

I did not choose to build a business; I kind of stumbled into it, more a duty than an opportunity. I did not dream of being “The Boss” (TM). Having my own company meant building the work environment I yearned for. What I did not see coming was that being its architect precluded me from enjoying it the way my employees would. I gave up on being the geek so that my team could thrive at it, and I became what most small business owners are at first: the janitor.

That’s what I see in most business owners, aka “entrepreneurs”, I have respect for. Smarts and selflessness. Conscious or unconscious. Financial gains are not out of the equation, but the main idea is to build a business you’d enjoy, as an employee or a customer. Leading it is almost an afterthought.

I don’t have any advice about what you should or should not do. Heck, if I had, I would try and charge you for it (I’m an “entrepreneur”, remember?). But I do often recognize entrepreneurship when I meet it, and it does not start with wanting to be “an entrepreneur”.