February 22, 2019

Am I an Entrepreneur?

Today our Entrepreneur in residence is Marketing specialist Andrew Broadhead, founder of  the Marketing Agency “The Big Cheese” . You can meet Andrew in person at lunchtime in the restaurant area in Greenford between 12.00 – 2.00pm 

Since I ask the question, and for a point of reference throughout, let’s start with the dictionary definition of ‘entrepreneur’;

a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money’ (The Meriam Webster Online Dictionary) 

It’s actually quite disappointing, isn’t it? It takes a certain amount of courage to start out on your own, I’m not demeaning that, however literally anyone can do it. As I can now testify.

I’m pretty sure we all think of entrepreneurs as something quite different from that definition. Perhaps we think of Branson, Sinclair, Dyson, Sugar, Gates, Musk or Zuckerberg who have all contributed to society with products that have made material differences to the way in which we live our lives. But that tier of visionary entrepreneur is occupied only by a special few.

Andrew Broadhead - The Big Cheese
Andrew Broadhead – The Big Cheese

I feel that the word ‘entrepreneur’ has been tarnished in recent years by, as a great friend of mine recently referred to them, ‘a constant supply of overly gelled **** in shiny suits on TV claiming to be entrepreneurs’. Quite.

If we aren’t all going to create a revolutionary product that will change the fabric of our society or simplify our existence, we’re not all going to show up on a reality TV show and we may not all set up our own companies, then what are we all doing here? And what, exactly, do we mean when we talk about being, or becoming, an entrepreneur?

When I think ‘entrepreneur’ I see a person who has focus, drive and ambition. Innovation comes naturally to them and they are inspirational characters. They take control of their destiny. They see clear paths towards their goals that sit outside of regular gainful employment. More importantly, perhaps, they have the aptitude to explore and exploit those paths and overcome challenges that lay in their way.

So, to add my definition of an entrepreneur;

Someone who manages their life path by taking positive actions which lead them toward their stated goal. 

All very good. Am I an Entrepreneur or not? 

You could say that I had displayed some ‘dictionary definition’ entrepreneurial tendencies in my formative years. I had a tuck shop which I ran out of an old silver cross pram when I was 10. I also opened a pitch and putt course in a friends back garden. And, not long after that I set up a pizza delivery business. We cooked frozen pizzas in my mates mums oven and delivered them by BMX in an old ice cream container. It was, to quote the modern vernacular, ‘an epic fail’. Pizzas were presented to astonished customers with toppings on the side from the vigorous shake-up they had taken during transit.

The Big Cheese

But it wasn’t long before my head was turned by higher education, management science and subsequently commerce. I was fascinated by the machinations of industry and I positively loved commercial enterprises. For the majority of my career I was completely focused on attaining ‘C’ level status at some Blue Chip organisation or other.

Did I suddenly lose my entrepreneurial spirit because I chose to work in industry and not set up my own company straight out of school (a la Sugar, the archetypal entrepreneurial type)? I don’t think so. Throughout my career I have built brands, driven sales, motivated teams, delivered results and made money doing it. Whilst in industry I worked with many employees who I saw displaying entrepreneurial traits.

The birth of my daughter, Rose, was the catalyst for the eventual birth of my first business. But was the day of my company incorporation the day I can officially call myself an entrepreneur?  Not so. The idea behind The Big Cheese was formulated years ago and the continual layering of experiences and expertise (pitch and putt, pizzas and tuck shops included) and an unswerving focus on delivering ‘the end goal’ was surely entrepreneurial.

Clearly our potential is only bounded by our imagination, however, on a daily basis I don’t measure my success versus those entrepreneurial legends I mentioned previously. That would be demoralising. And I don’t agree that you need to have ‘started’ a business in order to be an entrepreneur.

I have given you my definition, and perhaps within that is where I see myself.

I know that definition is not perfect and will be open to some debate. But sometimes definitions are found lacking. All I can say is that I don’t see myself as an entrepreneur, but I definitely KNOW an entrepreneur when I see one.

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