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.