Many small business owners use the terms ‘businessperson’ and ‘entrepreneur’ interchangeably, with some preferring the latter because it sounds more sophisticated, modern, and enlightened. They believe they need to embody the entrepreneurial spirit in order to get ahead, and chastise themselves and others in the pursuit of that ideal. I remember once being educated about why being an entrepreneur is what I should aim for, and why being ‘just a businessperson’ was going to lead to mediocrity. These days, we no longer get into business, we become entrepreneurs.
All of that sounds great, but it poses a problem for the small business owner who’s just getting started. The trend creates a misguided notion that success is hinged solely on entrepreneurship. If you’re not striving to lead your industry, then what’s the point? For a long time I didn’t care about the distinction between the two ideas, or what people called themselves. The thought never occurred to me that something seemingly inconsequential could make a difference in my life and in my business. I’m learning, however, that there’s more to the discussion that semantic definitions.
Entrepreneurship and business are different.
Entrepreneurship is a buzzword in business, and has been for some time. Numerous articles have been written about the qualities of an entrepreneur and the entrepreneur mindset. When many people think of what it means to be an entrepreneur they think of million-dollar business deals, creativity, technology, and innovation. Being an entrepreneur is likened to being on the cutting edge of an industry. It’s all about doing things in new and exciting ways, leading change.
That drive to be different, to identify and solve problems, is often reverenced above all other business skills without an appreciation for context. What eventually happens is that small business owners measure themselves against this lofty ideal without considering how these skills fit into overall business success. The end result for the majority is usually a feeling of always being inadequate, of not measuring up, of missing something that has to be found at all cost because our businesses and our lives depend on it. We look at ourselves in the mirror, we look at our businesses, and feel like none of it is worthy because we’re not getting out there, changing the world and making.
Chasing the entrepreneur ideal can be distressing.
The biggest problem with all of this is that it happens under the surface, and quietly undermines our confidence. You see, many of us are simply offering goods and services within traditional and established ventures, conducting business in ways that business has been conducted for years. There is no particular innovation, no new way of doing things. That is a loose description of what it means to be a businessperson.
Businesspeople focus on the day to day running of a business. They concern themselves with cash flow, sales, capital, assets, and revenue. Their goal is to make a business successful within a particular market. Because of this, many definitions classify businesspeople as employees, although one can be a businessperson and own the business as well. Truth be told, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that scenario, yet some of us feel like something is wrong with our approach to business because we don’t live up to what we believe it means to be an entrepreneur.
Focusing on business practices is just as valuable as innovation.
You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to run a successful business. In fact, focusing on business principles such as effective financial management, leadership, and successful business models is really what makes a business sustainable. You can have a unique selling proposition without being the next Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. You can deliver great value right where you are. Imagination, innovation, and cutting edge technology is just a starting point, sound business practice is what makes a difference between an organization which moves from strength to strength, and one which doesn’t make it past its third year of life.
So here’s the deal: whether you’re a business person or an entrepreneur is up to you. There’s nothing wrong with either option. Both require risk. Both require sacrifice. Both require knowledge, expertise, passion, and drive. Just recognize that practical business skills are necessary for daily operations, and some level of entrepreneurship is required for taking your company to the next level.
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Shelley-Ann Edwards-Barran is a writer, editor, writing coach, speaker, and advocate for better writing instruction. She is the CEO of WERD Coach Ltd., a company dedicated to helping writers at many levels – children, academics, authors.