What Defines an Entrepreneur?

Entrepreneur. People like to throw the word around; it sounds fanciful and laden with opportunity. It can transform any Tom, Dick or Harry into an impresario. But entrepreneurism is so much more than how it’s perceived. It’s not a category as much as it is a characteristic, an unremitting drive to build, develop, learn and grow. It’s a way of life.

I grew up in a middle-class suburb in Connecticut, surrounded by a family of small business owners who had to make major sacrifices to give us kids a good upbringing and a proper education. My parents made it look easy of course, with dad working from six to six and then mom running off when he got home to get to a catering gig. To me then, they were just mom and dad. To me now, they are heroes. But that’s what it’s all about. Being an entrepreneur is a bit like fighting a war, and some people are built for the battle.

Every day I make decisions that are terrifying, risky and have consequences that can make or break me. But with all the fears and uncertainty comes the rewards, which are much more satisfying when you look back at the road you took to achieve them. 

Anyone who has experienced success knows that it only takes one time to learn from a mistake, and anyone who has built a business knows how valuable those mistakes can be.  The longer you’ve been in the game, the better you know how to assess risk, which is one of the most valuable assets any business builder can have.

There is a certain romanticism about creating something that improves people’s lives. The right opportunity is one that gives you that Indiana Jones factor, the thrill of taking risks and seeing the possibilities. That’s the definition of an entrepreneur. Success waits for no one, so you have to be able to spin on a dime, move with the market, change, adapt and respond. In order to build a business, you have to know how to move around the ring. Sometimes you’ll throw few good punches, and sometimes you’ll get knocked down. The hits are the only way you’ll know which way to move in the next round.

In entrepreneurism, there is no blueprint, no floor plan, no prescription for success. If you want to make a difference, you have to be different. You have to create your own rules, break the mould, and be ready to be disruptive. Ultimate success has never been achieved by a disciple of the system.


Motivation and the Impossible

In my old office, I had a poster of Muhammad Ali that’s emblazoned with one of his most famous quotes: "Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."

When I first decided to start my own business, I had a nagging sense of impossibility. I had always been an employee, and even though I come from a family of small business owners, I never had a huge urge to do my own thing. Then one day I decided to quit my job in Sydney Australia and travel around the world. After six months of living out of a suitcase, exploring the ends of the earth and figuring out who I really was and what I wanted to be, I knew I would never fit into the 9 to 5 mold again.

Have you ever had an idea that made you jump out of bed in the middle of the night - something that literally awakens the passion inside you? And have you ever had that idea challenged by someone who tells you that it won’t work, that you can’t do it or that you simply won’t succeed?

It’s happened to me. But rather than taking the wind out of my sails, it did exactly the opposite.  Sometimes when you’re confronted with the impossible, it becomes an affirmation. The simple phrase “you can’t” actually becomes a catalyst for self-belief.

I can’t pretend that starting a business isn’t a massive challenge because it is. But motivation is something I thrive on, especially because I am in the business of helping other small businesses rule the world. I’m building a disruptive business that gives other little guys the tools to take on the goliaths. That’s pretty darn special, and it’s something to be proud of.

Anyone who wants to adopt a disruptive business model has to be ready to get knocked down. You can’t be disruptive without making some enemies. It is this very reason that many established and often well managed companies are afraid to adopt disruptive innovation. Even the most inventive businesses have trouble with it - simply because companies have been doing the same things, in the same way, and for the same reasons, for so long. They struggle with the concept of change. People rest on their laurels; they adopt an attitude of complacency. They get comfortable with where they’re at and what they’ve achieved, and they’re satisfied. That is, until they get bored.

I believe this is why many companies, large and small, struggle with staff turnover. No matter if you have the coolest technology or the most cutting-edge products, for a person to truly thrive in a business environment they have to be constantly motivated and continually challenged. And as a business owner, it is your job to create that environment, to challenge your staff, and to dare to be different.

Most people look for ways to better order their day, I look for ways to disorder it. If I start to see a pattern, I seek out the change.  Change is what it’s all about. That’s why when I have a full plate, my brain all of sudden thinks of some crazy idea or scheme that I just have to make a move on. I love the challenge. That motivation is what inspires me. It awakens an innate drive that money can’t buy.

If you want to make a difference, you have to be different. Find your motivation and take the challenge head on. Create your own rules and aim for the impossible. You never know where you might end up.