A 21st Century Perspective of Entrepreneurship
What behaviors distinguish entrepreneurs beyond the size and scope of a business venture?
David Cox | March 05, 2019
I recently read an article in which the author insisted that those who launch businesses as consultants, freelancers, and sole proprietors are “not” entrepreneurs. He didn’t feel these individuals had taken sufficient risks in terms of capital investment, financing, facilities, equipment, and employees to justify referring to their startup as an entrepreneurial venture.
Are you working as an independent consultant or freelancer? Did you organize your business as either a sole proprietorship or an individual member LLC? Do you define entrepreneurial activity by the size of your investment and the level of risk you’re taking? How you answer these questions determines whether you consider yourself an entrepreneur.
A different perspective
In the fall of 2016, my wife and I launched a business that has evolved into a service that provides blogging, copyediting, and web content for our clients. Since my wife has a full-time job, we organized our startup as an individual member LLC, for which I am officially the registered member.
Our business is one of over 50 million self-employment and solo startup ventures in the U.S. today. We did not take out a loan or borrow against our retirement savings. We self-funded this undertaking and adjusted our business model until we found a combination of services that helped us achieve sustainability.
I am convinced that we demonstrate entrepreneurship daily by our behavior rather than the size of our investment. I also feel our progress better reflects a more widely-practiced 21st Century perspective of entrepreneurship.
Acting like an entrepreneur
I first considered this perspective in early 2018 after reading an article by teacher, author, blogger, and business coach Seth Godin titled, “The Four Elements of Entrepreneurship.”
Godin stated that since entrepreneurship is “a verb, an action, a posture… then, of course, it’s a choice.” He then went on to describe what people do when they act like entrepreneurs.
- They make decisions about operational investments (risking time and money).
- They invest in activities and assets that are not a sure thing.
- They persuade others to support a mission without a guarantee of success.
- They embrace (instead of running from) the work of doing things that might not succeed.
Godin’s view reflects a perspective rooted in our nation’s history. It’s the same entrepreneurial spirit brought to the U.S. by our earliest farmers and merchants as they sought to earn a living by selling what they produced from the land, products they made by hand and providing skilled services.
It’s easy to get hung up on “risk-taking” and the size of one’s investment, but as Godin says, “If you’re acting like an entrepreneur, you don’t feel like you’re taking a huge risk.” Risks are what happens in poker, a zero-sum game with limited participants, where you can’t win unless somebody else loses, and you’re never in control of the game.
We’ve learned that when you act like an entrepreneur, your control of the game expands. Once you discover a product or service that you can deliver to a definite market, offer exceptional service, and have the wisdom to utilize the four elements (listed above) in your venture, the growth of your business is inevitable.