I tuned into a recent BBC documentary that follows the fortunes of a group of Scottish entrepreneurs. One advisor was asked to define ‘entrepreneur’. His answer was long on enthusiasm and short on sense: ‘If you think I am one, I am one’.
I wondered what the reaction might be if a doctor in a hospital documentary defined themselves in similar terms. Or take another profession: to become a lawyer requires the aspirant to study for years, but to become an ‘entrepreneur’ you simply need to believe you are one.
But perhaps this narrow line of thinking reflects something of a norm. Many business schools offer add-on courses where start-ups are a topic to be mastered in a week. Incubators and accelerators offer the same ‘sheep-dip’ philosophy.
If only building an entrepreneurial business could be packaged and codified so easily. The reality, of course, is that entrepreneurship demands rigour over time. Identifying new opportunities, making the ‘right’ decisions, and managing growth present challenges that take years of experience and reflection to perfect.
Rather than seeing entrepreneurship as just ‘something to have a go at’, we would be well served as seeing it as a profession in its own right. In this universe, it becomes a core business school discipline; it becomes an activity that can be learnt rather than being mostly a matter of luck. Successful serial entrepreneurs are not merely people who have a knack for winning the lottery over and over again.