If you are on this site it means you are interested in starting an internet business which also means you are on the path of being an entrepreneur. But what is entrepreneurship and what exactly is an entrepreneur? My favourite definition comes from Gary Schoeniger who defines it as such:
“Entrepreneurialism is a mindset, it provides a framework for thinking and acting that can empower anyone to succeed”
Gary sums up the entrepreneurial mindset, what it is and what it isn’t in this short video:
The two key words in the definition are “mindset” and “anyone”. Mention the word entrepreneur and most people envision Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or the cast from Shark Tank. While they are certainly examples of entrepreneurs, they are not representative of the entire category which includes small startups, local businesses and internet entrepreneurs. By only focusing on the extremely successful entrepreneurs, the perception is that it is out of reach for the average person. Thankfully this is not the case as entrepreneurship in its essence is a mindset and like any mindset it can be learned by anyone. This is a powerful realization and a very empowering one.
There are many aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset however some of the common characteristics are:
This doesn’t mean jumping out of a plane type risk taker or running head long into danger without a plan. The idea here is to undertake some action which has an unknown or unpredictable outcome yet the potential rewards are worth the risk. Society encourages the deferred life plan of going to school, getting a job, doing something you don’t want for 30 years, retiring then hoping you have enough time and money to live your dreams. Doesn’t that sound like a much more dangerous risk than what entrepreneurs take?
If you have ever gone out there and just started something from scratch you know what this characteristic is all about. Self starters are the ones who just do what needs to be done. No one is giving them permission and they’re not asking for it they just start something. It could be planning an event like a party, a fundraiser, creating a website to draw awareness to a particular cause, or even starting a needed conversation about a pertinent issue.
Being a visionary simply involves seeing the future in a novel way. Imagination is an important component of this process. Anytime you think of doing something in a new and different way there is an element of being a visionary. It need not be dramatically different than what has been tried before, as long as it is just unique enough to make a difference.
Traditionally when people thought of an entrepreneur, the connotation was of a business person starting a company to create massive profits. Although that can certainly be a byproduct or result of being an entrepreneur, most entrepreneurs start out looking for opportunities which later develop into full fledged businesses. Opportunities might involve finding new ways to finance solar projects, creating a social media platform for people to connect with each other or seeing the opportunity to electrify the transportation system. In many cases the opportunity takes time to develop into a profit generating business which is why people who are only looking for immediate profit potential miss out.
Tying it all together: the Virgin Atlantic origin story
Quoted from Richard Branson:
“In ’79, when Joan, my fiancée and I were on a holiday in the British Virgin Islands, we were trying to catch a flight to Puerto Rico; but the local Puerto Rican scheduled flight was cancelled. The airport terminal was full of stranded passengers. I made a few calls to charter companies and agreed to charter a plane for $2000 to Puerto Rico. Cheekily leaving out Joan’s and my name, I divided the price by the remaining number of passengers, borrowed a blackboard and wrote: VIRGIN AIRWAYS: $39 for a single flight to Puerto Rico.”
Risk-taker: No guarantee the charter companies would agree or were available. No guarantee other passengers would sign up. He could have been stuck paying the full $2000 himself.
Self-starter: He made the calls to the charter companies.
Visionary: He used his imagination to envision a new way to solve the problem of being stuck in the airport, by chartering a plane.
Opportunity-seeker: He saw the opportunity in providing a solution to himself and the other stranded passengers. He wasn’t thinking in that moment about starting a multi-billion dollar airline.
The most fascinating part of this story is that ANYONE could have done what he did. It wasn’t rocket science, it didn’t investment capital and it did not require a Master’s or a PhD. Any one of those stranded passengers or even an observer could have thought of this solution. Perhaps they did, but they didn’t follow through and take action like Richard Branson did, they didn’t have the same mindset.
I hope this provides evidence that being an entrepreneur truly is a mindset, a way of thinking, which anyone can learn.