Are you an entrepreneur, or successful business person?

Nina Hendy

The term ‘entrepreneur’ is grossly overused these days. Everyone wants to claim the right to call themselves an entrepreneur, whether it’s true, or not.

Digital technology and the never-ending search for work/life balance have prompted many Australians to go in search of something more meaningful, and hard workers can feel entitled to claim the sought-after title.

But experts argue that many are claiming the title of entrepreneur when in fact they’re probably better described as a successful business person.

According to experts, you’ve got no right to call yourself an entrepreneur if you’re simply earning decent money, as entrepreneurialism has nothing to do with how much you make. Business people might be hugely successful and make a healthy profit, but usually, they’re walking a well-trodden path already built by someone before them.

By definition, entrepreneurs head off the beaten track and create their own path in business. They challenge the status quo and are professional risk-takers. Entrepreneurs are also motivated by the process of creation itself and want to make something where there was nothing.

Often, they’re also prepared to quit their jobs. They put financial and even emotional strain on their family, and often go periods without a stable salary in the name of their pursuit. In return they get to see their passion become a reality.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are often far more disruptive in nature, and engage more readily in a process of trial and error...

Danielle Logue, senior lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney’s Business School says entrepreneurs bring new products and services to market, and commercialise new technologies.

While anyone can learn business skills, an entrepreneur has inherent characteristics that others just don’t have. These include being focused, logical, analytical, driven, forward-thinking, committed and accountable.

“A business person may make improvements on products and services and still take risks, but they’re doing so within existing industries or systems,” she explains.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are often far more disruptive in nature, and engage more readily in a process of trial and error, she says.

Entrepreneur Emma Hoffman, whose recent creation was a single, centralised digital fitness pass called ClassHopper, now works for a similar concept called KFIT in Melbourne. Hoffman says it’s easy to conceptualise a million-dollar idea, but actually bringing it to fruition can be gruelling.

The word ‘no’ isn’t accepted by entrepreneurs. If at first you don’t succeed, you’ll try and try again. If you hit a brick wall, you climb it and keep on walking, she says.

“You can write the best business plan in the world, but if you don’t have the guts to slog it out and make it a reality, it will never take you anywhere. This is where personal characteristics are crucial. Decide what success means to you, and go after it,” she says.

Nina Hendy

Nina Hendy is an Australian freelance business journalist and wordsmith who writes for BBC Australia, BRW, sections of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and affiliated mastheads, SmartCompany, Private Media and Edge titles.