Entrepreneurs, employees separate breeds

Entrepreneurs, employees separate breeds

 August  19, 2007

Q: Do you think entrepreneurs are made or
born? I say born, my partner says made. What say you? — Gerald

A: More often than not, I would say that someone
is either an entrepreneur at heart or they are not. This is not to say
that people cannot learn the skills necessary to be successful in their
own business — of course they can, and they should. But do you want to
start your own business? Actually, do you need to start your own
business? That is the question.

I have a friend visiting from out of town this
week. He has a great job — an excellent salary, amazing health
insurance, a company car, a 401(k) that is matched dollar for dollar by
his employer — you name it. I could only dream of such benefits. But do
you know what? While he sometimes dreams of switching gigs with me, and
vice versa, the truth is, we could never switch places.

Why is that? Some reasons are obvious: For me,
the constraints, bosses, and policies he has to contend with would far
outweigh the great benefits. And for him, the freedom and creativity
that would come with being an entrepreneur would be no match for the
fat paycheck and security he gets every two weeks.

We are two different breeds. While I am not
saying one is better than the other, I am saying that people who are
entrepreneurs should not be employees (indeed, they often make the
worst employee), and employees usually should not try to be
entrepreneurs (they may succeed, but often find the experience more
stressful than enjoyable.)

How do you know which you are? Try this simple
quiz: Let’s say that tomorrow you walked into your job and are given
two weeks notice. Which best describes what you think your reaction
would be:

1. "Oh no! What am I going to do? I have
a mortgage, a kid to feed, and bills to pay. I need to find another
job, pronto."
"Woo hoo! I’m free. I’ve always wanted to start my own business, and
thought I would be a bit more prepared when I did, but I guess now is
as good a time as any."

If your answer is No. 1, you are not a born
entrepreneur, and of course, if your answer is No. 2, you are. The
risk, adrenaline rush, insecurity, and lack of structure that comes
with being fired fuel the entrepreneur.

Now, needless to say, the willingness to jump
into the fire is not enough, not nearly enough, to become a successful
entrepreneur. It is in fact just the start. But it is that start that
is the dispositive factor here. You know you are an entrepreneur if you
are willing to go for it, damn the torpedoes.

Now of course you will need a lot more than
simply the willingness to take a risk — you will also need some
business acumen, financial savvy, a good product or service, and a wee
bit of luck. But aside from the luck part, those other things could be
learned. My friend has all of those things in spades but he would make
a terrible entrepreneur because security is more important than freedom
to him. For me, and you too maybe, the teeter totters the other way.

When you combine that with say, family support,
money in the bank, transferable skills, a creative idea and a strong
work ethic, then all of the ingredients are in place to "make" a
successful entrepreneur, but the first and most important ingredient —
a burning desire to do it on your own — is the one that cannot be

Today’s tip: Later this week, the State
Department is sending me abroad on another speaking engagement. This
time I am headed to the Middle East — to Jordan. There I will be
meeting with and speaking about e-commerce with young entrepreneurs,
government officials, and university professors. If you want to follow
along (or see my pictures of Petra!), you can read all about it at my
site, www.MrAllBiz.com.

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