Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Defining Small Business / Entrepreneurship

In addition to being an unduly difficult word to spell, entrepreneurship is difficult to define. (My recent posting mentioned obstacles. Maybe an inability to spell the word keeps people from pursuing entrepreneurial ventures!) If you ask 10 people to define it, you'll probably get 15 variations. In my opinion, the definition truly is in the eye of the beholder. On a high level, one can envision three paths to pursue: starting a business, buying an existing business, or franchises. These are probably the most commonly used conceptions, although you will find many people overlook the middle one. (Not unlike Otto in A Fish Called Wanda.)

A commonality across these 3 is the concept of ownership and "being your own boss." That is one aspect of small business, but not necessary, in my opinion. People who pursue a smaller business (think: relative to their options) are frequently throwing in their lot with small business. This choice often requires sacrificing the perceived "gifts" of Corporate America for the perceived "risks" of smaller businesses. The trade-off's can be lower salary, but an equity stake that is more within your control or longer/different hours, but a stronger emotional connection to your work.

These characteristics are more fundamental to the small business than being the sole owner. I have met and worked with people in a variety of roles that I would consider entrepreneurial. It is more of a personal trait than a defined role. What are your goals and how do you approach your job? The path to small business is a journey and simply beginning that journey gets you in the game.

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