Nowadays, every man and woman with an appetite for risk and affinity for ruling is fast to call himself or herself an entrepreneur. Is this really the case?
Entrepreneurs are the ones saving the planet, improving human lives or pledging money and effort to charity. However, you don’t need to be a billionaire in order to be called an entrepreneur.
There are many differences between an entrepreneur and a "wantrepreneur" (a term I recently added to my vocabulary which was originally coined by the famous American businessman Mark Cuban).
It seems like everyone is calling themselves an entrepreneur these days. Everyone is after that next genius idea hoping to make it big, but while everyone wants that success, only a few can earn it. Those who have been successful know what separates the real entrepreneurs from the wantrepreneurs.
- A loser makes excuses to not even try, but having the determination to greet failure and push even further is what makes a real entrepreneur. They overcome failure, they get up fast when they are knocked down. It’s a life lesson for them and they don’t stop. “Real entrepreneurs make it happen. Wannabes make excuses.” – George Strompolos, CEO of Fullscreen.
- As much as we might wish, we can’t stay in school forever, but we don’t have to be in school to keep learning. Always keep an open mind and be as passionate about learning as you are about your business. “My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life almost like one long university education that I never had — every day I’m learning something new.” – Richard Branson. Real entrepreneurs never stop learning. Wantrepreneurs get complacent.
- What do you call driving a nice electric car and taking a rocket to the moon? Creating what many people call the impossible, but we should all dream big if we want to make it big. The impossible can be done, so what can you come up with? “If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.” – Elon Musk. A real entrepreneur creates what a wantrepreneur says is impossible. Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
- Every entrepreneur meets failure at some point, but it’s what happens after that separates the real from the fake. After all the time, energy, and money spent, learning from why you failed and being better off is the key to meeting success later on. “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates. Real entrepreneurs embrace and learn from failure, wantrepreneurs are defeated by it. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” – J.K. Rowling.
- The life of an entrepreneur often calls for sacrifice, whether it’s living off a few ringgit a day or living out of a car. Pushing an idea to success isn’t all about looking the part, working hard and working smart brings real success. Wantrepreneurs play with the image of success now, a real entrepreneur works to live it later on. "I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near." — Margaret Thatcher.
- When it comes down to it, taking action is what really counts no matter how many good ideas you might be coming up with. Real entrepreneurs take that leap to get the ball rolling when they say they will. “Real entrepreneurs do what they say they’re going to do, wannabes ask about it and have tons and tons of coffee meetings.” – Brian Wong, CEO of Kiip.
- A real entrepreneur knows the value of teamwork and leadership. The greatest idea can never succeed without the right leader and the right people being able to organise and work together in any case. “The key is having great players. But there are a lot of teams that have All-Stars and haven’t been able to put it together.” – Mark Cuban. A wantrepreneur thinks it’s all about them, a real entrepreneur knows that the team is everything. "Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilisation work." — Vince Lombardi.
- All successful entrepreneurs do what they love and love what they do. Failure is pushing an idea one doesn’t truly believe in, being knowledgeable and passionate about your business is what makes it a successful sell. “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.” – Jeff Bezos. Real entrepreneurs are driven by their passion, wantrepreneurs are driven by what they think their passion should be. "Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate." — Jon Bon Jovi.
Real entrepreneurs aim for noble careers. An entrepreneur can do this by creating jobs, by advancing science, by coming up with solutions to the world’s various problems. A real entrepreneur is not the person seeking to fulfill his or her selfish goals.
Every man aims to improve his life, but entrepreneurs, by creating businesses, knowingly or unknowingly, add value not only to their life, but also to the lives of many more human beings aside from himself or herself.
Entrepreneurship is not a job. An entrepreneur creates the framework for improving his life and the lives of others. It may be argued that any man, by doing his job thoroughly and diligently, is adding value to other people's lives, improving the world. That’s correct.
Professionals such as doctors, healers, teachers and even politicians are inevitably creating a better quality and standard of life for society as a whole. Nevertheless, no doctor, teacher or politician can be called an entrepreneur. None of them undertake the responsibilities of other people. They work within the confines of their jobs. They have a job. They follow rules – rules created by entrepreneurs.
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* Dr Viraj Perera is the CEO of PlaTCOM Ventures Sdn Bhd, the national technology commercialisation platform of Malaysia which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) formed in collabouration with SME Corp Malaysia.