The Advancing Leadership Blog

The Evolution of Entrepreneurship

Catherine_cropLooking back on Global Entrepreneurship week, we celebrate entrepreneurship in all its forms and explore what it means to be an entrepreneur in 2014. If you ask ten different business people what it means to be an entrepreneur each will have a slightly different vision. The dictionary definition is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money.” Back in 1964, Peter Drucker said: “An entrepreneur searches for change, responds to it and exploits opportunities. Innovation is a specific tool of an entrepreneur.” These words remain true today though the experience of being an entrepreneur has evolved.

The stories of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists we at TEC Canada have had the pleasure to hear are all stories of opportunity, risk and innovation. According to these extraordinary individuals, being an entrepreneur means “working hard – for yourself and your company,” “understanding there is no such thing as failure,” “knowing when to take advice from others and when to trust your gut” and of course, loving it so much that you can not only survive but thrive on five hours of sleep a night (at least for the first few years). What shines through is their spirit – they are simultaneously determined and daring, persistent yet playful and above all – passionate. They are action-oriented and they have learned from their mistakes and those of others.

Is this passion for turning possibilities into reality something you can learn or is it a pre-disposition, a character trait? It’s hard to say, but to see outside the box, to be a disrupter, you have to want more out of your business life than a good living. You must be focused on the big picture. That’s not to say that entrepreneurial zeal doesn’t exist within companies. Intra-preneurship is priceless because often employees can spot an opportunity that the owner cannot. In today’s fast-paced world, everyone should be thinking like a start-up. And with so many technologies emerging daily, the number of opportunities appears to be limitless. TEC speaker and innovation pioneer John Sutherland points out “Thirty years ago the entrepreneurs were also the inventors. What we have now is the emergence of serial entrepreneurs whose skillset is taking new inventions to market.”

Though capitalizing on the explosion of disruptive new technologies is perhaps the biggest development facing entrepreneurs today, the focus of some entrepreneurs has broadened to challenging the status quo of how business should be done. Some, like Google founder Larry Page, are calling on businesses to be more responsible, to more actively nurture talent and for leaders to mentor more freely. We applaud this trend. Like entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship itself should be dynamic and creative.

What does being an entrepreneur mean to you? How do you think it’s changed?

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