OPINION: Australian model Lara Bingle gets called an 'entrepreneur' all the time - most often a 'budding lingerie entrepreneur' if Google is to be believed - but I wonder if the person who first labelled her that uses a dictionary.
I am not saying anything (allegedly) regarding Lara, but I will point out some facts about what I believe the word means. If you actually look up the term 'entrepreneur', you will find it is described as the ability to identify an opportunity, start a business venture and take that risk in doing so.
The word 'entrepreneur' is thrown around more often than 'I love youse' by drunk teenagers on New Year's Eve. I have been called one on a number of business sites but to be honest, I really don't understand the criteria one needs to meet anymore to be labelled an 'entrepreneur'.
It seems to me in this current climate, that if you have managed to come up with an idea and created an associated twitter account, you are one.
The reason this does not resonate with me is because growing up the word meant something.
It meant a person who was able to create a start-up or be involved in some venture and watch it grow from a mere concept into a profitable and hopefully sustainable business and yes, like the generic term suggests, accepts huge risks.
I truly believe it takes a lifetime to be worthy of the title and one should have a line of successful start-ups behind them, splattered between the failed ones (let's not kid ourselves, there are always going to be failures).
Winston Churchill said "Success is walking from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm", which if you post on your Facebook sounds really lovely but I would want to know, 'how often are you failing and why?'
If your life is a sequence of only failures, in relation to start-ups or entrepreneurial ventures, maybe you aren't actually an entrepreneur.
I don't know if starting a business selling beaded bracelets at Bondi markets really warrants the label, unless said business grows and expands, but three traits I believe legitimate entrepreneurs have are
1. They are discerning
A seasoned entrepreneur is someone with a long story behind them. You will hear them talk about the products that didn't work, the ventures that sucked and the people that drained them as well as the moments that were astoundingly successful, profitable and sometimes just damn lucky. They look at this path that has been both scary and rewarding and they can say they were able to discern what had to go and what they needed to hang on to, no matter what.
I have not heard of one entrepreneur who has only had successful ventures and if you know of one don't bother telling me, they sound boring.
What I believe separates true entrepreneurs from the pack is the audacity to keep going, the ability to identify an opportunity and the capacity to ensure the resources are there to see it come to fruition and grow, but also cut their losses once that ride is over.
2. They understand longevity
To me, an entrepreneur is someone who sticks with a business until it is no longer commercially viable. The ability to see decisions through and drive a business is imperative and at the end of the day, all you have is your word and reputation. If you are flaky, incapable of sticking with something and jump from one venture to another, I would question why you call yourself an entrepreneur. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with realising you aren't one, in fact I think knowing your own limitations is everything. But call a spade a spade.
Entrepreneurs understand it will take time, effort and money to break even let alone make a profit for quite a while and they need to think of the big picture. They don't tend to start a lingerie line then a scented candle line, then a handbag line before finally settling for paid appearances at clubs, a la Ms. Bingle.
3. They are prepared to take the blows
The first six months will be exciting and the next two years will be tough, so an entrepreneur tries to enjoy the ebb and flow of exhilarating moments and terrifying ones, ideally in equal measure.
Some things work and some things won't work and you have to be astute enough to know when to invest or divest. An entrepreneur also knows that this falls completely on their shoulders and is aware how each cog works in the wheel. They understand their finances, understand what their customers want, are aware of the market place and ensure they approach their business with a good balance of control but acceptance of climate fluctuations.
And most importantly, they own their mistakes and learn from them.
Alexandra Tselios is co-Founder and publisher of The Big Smoke, Australia's newest opinion site. She is also an expert business start-up consultant and provides strategic advice to young Australian start-ups or entrepreneurs seeking assistance in taking their business or idea to the next level.
- Sydney Morning Herald