It is very difficult to focus on a business mission and yourself at the same time. Clarity makes all the difference.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Robert has somewhere between seven and a dozen small business ventures on the go at any time.
If he sees an opportunity or has an idea, he is quick to launch it. One of the businesses started out in managed information technology services. Then a client asked
if he could build her a website. So he did and launched a website company. Since he needed insurance and other financial services he figured he could sell those to his clients as well, so he started another business venture. And so it goes.
When people ask Robert what he does, he frequently says, “I am an entrepreneur.”
Janet is raising three children with special dietary needs including some food allergies. She started preparing and packaging a lot of her own food as the commercially available options were limited; especially when on the road or when running the kids around.
I tend to think mostly of entrepreneurs as business builders and implementers of innovative ideas.
Now that they are off to school she decided to launch a company that will focus on pre-prepared and packaged food for people with allergies and special dietary needs. The goal is to provide healthy options for people who are busy, on the run or travelling.
When people ask Janet what she does, she says, “I help people with allergies and special dietary needs eat better when they are busy or on the run.”
Your Entrepreneurial Focus
There are two basic types of entrepreneurial focus or outlooks:
- Those attracted to the idea of being an entrepreneur.
- Those who are entrepreneurs because it is the preferred way to make an idea happen.
The two outlooks are not mutually exclusive and in fact, people have a healthy dose of both. However, the people I see tend to lean heavily towards one or the other.
The primary focal point is different. The first entrepreneurial outlook focuses on self. The second focuses on creating an external result.
I tend to think mostly of entrepreneurs as business builders and implementers of innovative ideas. But I also know that is this my personal viewpoint.
Dictionary.com defines an entrepreneur as:
“A person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”
This definition is pretty broad and covers just about anyone. Even when you add in both initiative and risk both of my examples fit.
I think the word “managed” or “calculated” should be beside risk if you want to be successful and avoid being a gambler. But strictly speaking, the definition is correct because it is not the definition of “successful entrepreneur”.
But what is an enterprise?
The first definition at Dictionary.com says:
“A company organized for commercial purposes; business firm.”
This definition is the most direct meaning of enterprise in the definition of entrepreneur but, when we take the second meaning we get another insight:
“A project undertaken or to be undertaken, especially one that is important or difficult or that requires boldness or energy.”
The second definition leans closer to what my personal definition is and nicely fits with “make an idea happen”.
Understanding Your Why
Robert is focused on being an entrepreneur. The specific product matters less than the challenge of running businesses. In the example, he may be limiting growth through a lack of focus, but that may be an acceptable trade-off.
Janet is more focused on the mission, and she uses being an entrepreneur as the path to solving the bigger problem and helping others.
One outlook is not inherently more valid than the other because your business is there to serve you. Entrepreneurs focused on something bigger tend to be the ones growing larger enterprises.
When you are focused on “the idea of being an entrepreneur” you might be doing it for some of these reasons:
- You like the challenge of starting businesses and solving business problems,
- You are motivated by the entrepreneur title or implied prestige,
- You are creating a lifestyle business,
- Your focus is on revenue, profit or exit strategy,
- It is a vehicle to allow you to work in your craft,
- You thrive at sales,
- You like taking on brand new challenges,
- You are motivated by another external purpose.
When you are focused on “making an idea happen”, you might be motivated by some of these concepts:
- Launching a new product or service,
- Building and growing a significant business,
- Making a difference in the world or creating a major impact,
- Innovation or solving a new problem,
- Seeing your business grow over the longer-term.
- Proving to the world your idea is valid.
All the reasons that matter to you are valid.
The key is to be honest about your reasons as it impacts a lot of other choices. Knowing what motivates you allows you to focus, and the clarity allows you to work better with others to fill in gaps.
Personally, I like the idea of being an entrepreneur. However, making ideas happen motivates and appeals to me more. It has a bigger potential impact. Clarity gives me the staying power to stick through the rough and sometimes tedious work involved in building something bigger.
So be clear. What is your why?
This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.
Image Credit (Modified) – Flickr/AK Rockefeller