Think Like an Entrepreneur

29th, October 2017


Entrepreneurship is the process of creating or seizing an opportunity, and pursuing it regardless of resources currently controlled. The American Heritage Dictionary defines an entrepreneur to be "a person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for business ventures."

These are rather abstract concepts for a person just beginning to consider whether they ought to start a business rather than take a job, or leave a secure job for a chance at greater self-fulfillment. Entrepreneurship is more an attitude than a skill or a profession.

Who is an Entrepreneur?

Would you consider a person who inherits a business an entrepreneur? It is their own money and financial security at risk. They could as easily liquidate, invest in blue-chips, and live off dividends.

Would a person who inherited a small or marginal business, then took it to new dimensions be considered an entrepreneur? What if that person paced the business’ decline to just carry them to retirement? Is long-term success, even beyond the founder’s lifetime, an important criterion to being an entrepreneur?

Are franchise owners entrepreneurs? Franchises are sure things, aren’t they? Is it much different from income from “passive” investments? What is the appeal of franchise ownership?

Are there entrepreneurs in large companies? How can a company promote "intrapreneurship?" Are different qualities required of a successful division manager than of a president of a successful company of similar size? Is an entrepreneur necessarily a manager?

Entrepreneurship is generally characterized by some type of innovation, a significant investment, and a strategy that values expansion. The manager is generally charged with using existing resources to make a business run well. Are these incompatible roles? Are most managers entrepreneurial?


Peter F. Drucker, author of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said that anybody from any organization can learn how to be an entrepreneur, that it is "systematic work." But there is a difference between learning how to be, and succeeding as an entrepreneur.

"When a person earns a degree in physics, he becomes a physicist," said Morton Kamien, a former professor of entrepreneurship at Northwestern University. "But if you were to earn a degree in entrepreneurship, that wouldn't make you an entrepreneur."

The U.S. Small Business Administration suggests that the prospective entrepreneur begin by examining their motivation. How important to you are the reasons commonly given for people going into business for themselves? Among these reasons are freedom from work routine; being your own boss; doing what you want when you want; boredom with the current job; financial desires, and; a perceived opportunity. Which of these might be sufficient to get you to take the risk?

Personal characteristics required, according to the SBA (, include leadership, decisiveness, and competitiveness. Can you objectively rate yourself in these dimensions? How much of each of these traits is enough to insure a good chance of success? Important factors in personal style include will-power, and self-discipline, comfort with the planning process, and with working with others. Are these indicators of success even for the non-entrepreneurial?

The prospective entrepreneur should perform a personal skills inventory that includes supervisory/managerial experience, business education, knowledge about the specific business of interest, and willingness to acquire any necessary skills that may be missing. A commitment to filling any knowledge or experience gap is a very positive indicator of success.

Former newspaper columnist Niki Scott suggested questions that could help us determine our fitness for the temperamental demands of entrepreneurship:

  • Do you routinely accept responsibility? Are you comfortable with moderate risk?
  • Do you consider yourself pro-active? Focused? A priority-setter?
  • Are you confident about overcoming obstacles? Realistic about your limitations?
  • Are you accurate? Controlled? Self-reliant? Disciplined? A self-starter?
  • Are you comfortable accepting advice? Willing to do whatever it takes?
  • Are you fair and honest? Constructive? A good delegator? A motivator?
  • Are you persevering? Resilient? Do you know when to quit?

  • Does it still sound like fun? How does the sense of intensity and personal responsibility implied by this checklist sit with you? Does this direction still seem a few years away?


    The process of creating or seizing an opportunity is less the result of a deliberate search than it is a mindset of maintaining a form of vigilance that is sensitized to business opportunity. This frequently relates to the prospective entrepreneur's current profession or interests, where he or she perceives a process that can be more efficiently performed an attractive new service or improvement of an existing service, or some business or geographic "niche" that is being undeserved.

    Successful entrepreneurs exhibit the ability to recognize an opportunity while it is still taking shape. These are often based on broad trends, which may be: demographic, such as the "graying" of America, creating opportunities in health services; sociological developments, like the "green" movement, with its emphasis on recycling and environmental sensitivity, and; cultural changes caused by changing economic conditions and technological developments.

    Opportunities can also frequently be found in current and developing business trends such as the globalization of business, the need for outsourcing created by downsizing, and the burgeoning service economy. There are often localized opportunities, based on geography, natural resources, human resources in local abundance, and the like. Can you think of any for your area?

    John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has more than 40 years' experience as an educator, manager, entrepreneur, and strategist. He founded and ran a highly successful business for 20 years. He is the author of “8 Steps to Starting a Business,” available at Amazon and directly from John at a significant discount. Contact John at: