What is an Entrepreneur?

I have many discussions with my business partner in the US over entrepreneurs and cross border challenges, the entrepreneur and his/ her role to the business community and have seen lots of definitions for what makes an entrepreneur over the years but I read an article recently that is quite compelling over exactly what is an entrepreneur. It comes from Chris Oakley OBE, chairman of web design company Chapter Eight. He is also a former journalist who in 1991 led what was then the world’s largest media management buy-out, the £120m acquisition of regional newspapers based in and around Birmingham and Coventry.

So what is an entrepreneur?

“An entrepreneur sees an opportunity which others do not fully recognise, to meet an unsatisfied demand or to radically improve the performance of an existing business. They have unquenchable self-belief that this opportunity can be made real through hard work, commitment and the adaptability to learn the lessons of the market along the way.”

“They are not diverted or discouraged by scepticism from ‘experts’ or from those from whom they seek backing and support, but willing to weigh all advice and select that which will be helpful. They are prepared not just to work seriously hard but to back their judgment with personal investment at a level which will cause problems if they are wrong about the opportunity. They understand that achievements are the result of team work and knows how to choose the necessary blend of talents and inspire them with their vision.”

Interesting enough a study from The Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology compared the health of a “nationally representative sample of employees and entrepreneurs” and examined a wide range of health factors for both groups. This included the rates of physical disease and mental illness, blood pressure, the number of sick days taken, the number of visits to the physician, and overall well–being and life satisfaction.

After the numbers were crunched, entrepreneurs were the clear winner in essentially every category. It was discovered that entrepreneurs showed significantly lower incidence of physical and mental illnesses, lower blood pressure, lower rates of hypertension, made fewer visits to the hospital, and enjoyed higher overall well–being and life satisfaction.

What I believe makes most entrepreneurs healthy is not the fact that they run a business, but that they approach life in a particular way. In other words, it’s their healthy mind-set that often leads to a healthy life. For example…

  • Entrepreneurs give themselves permission to change the world and to pursue their dreams.
  • Entrepreneurs believe in themselves and in the control they have over their own lives.
  • Entrepreneurs trust that, even when things are uncertain, they’ll figure it out.
  • Entrepreneurs wake up with a purpose that drives them. They have a vision of what they are working towards that pulls them out of bed each day.

The feelings of empowerment and self–confidence that come from entrepreneurship find their way into virtually every area of your life.

I do not think entrepreneurship is for everyone, but I also do not think it needs to be.

Being an entrepreneur requires much more than just big ideas. A true entrepreneur is a rare breed; it is someone who possesses a unique combination of traits, skills and characteristics that enable them to beat the odds and go after their dreams full throttle.

What are those attributes? What does an entrepreneur need to succeed?


Entrepreneurs are all about setting goals and putting their all into achieving them; they are determined to make their business succeed and will remove any encumbrances that may stand in their way. They also tend to be strategic in their game plans and always have a clear idea in mind of exactly what they want to achieve and how they plan to achieve it.

Committed to their business

Entrepreneurs are not easily defeated; they view failure as an opportunity for future success, and if they do not succeed the first time, they will stay committed to their business and will continue to try and try again until it does succeed. A true entrepreneur doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.


Entrepreneurs are inherently proactive, and know that if something really needs to get done, they should do it themselves. They are certainly ‘doers’, not thinkers, and tend to have very exacting standards. They view their business as an extension of themselves and like to be integral in its day-to-day operations—even when they don’t have to be.

Thrive on uncertainty

Not only do they thrive on it—they also remain calm throughout it. Sometimes things go wrong in business, but when you’re at the helm of a company and making all the decisions, it’s essential to keep your cool in any given situation. True entrepreneurs know this and secretly flourish and grow in the wake of any challenges.

Continuously look for opportunities to improve

Entrepreneurs realize that every event or situation is a business opportunity, and they are constantly generating new and innovative ideas. They have the ability to look at everything around them and focus it toward their goals in an effort to improve their business.

Willing to take risks

A true entrepreneur does not ask questions about whether or not they will succeed—they truly believe they will. They exude this confidence in all aspects of life, and as a bi-product, they are never afraid to take risks due to their unbinding faith that ultimately they will triumph.

Willing to listen and learn

The most important part of learning is listening—and a good entrepreneur will do this in abundance.

Great people skills

Entrepreneurs have strong communication skills, and it is this strength that enables them to effectively sell their product or service to clients and customers. They’re also natural leaders with the ability to motivate, inspire and influence those around them.

Inherently creative

This is one trait that, due to their very nature, entrepreneurial business people have by the bucket load. They are able to not only come up with ingenious ideas, but also turn those ideas into profits.

Passionate and always full of positivity

Passion is perhaps the most important trait of the successful entrepreneur. They genuinely love their job and are willing to put in those extra hours to make their business grow; they get a genuine sense of pleasure from their work that goes way beyond just cash.

Very few people in my opinion are fortunate enough to be born with all of these characteristics, but the good news is that they can all be learned. You should read a copy of my book before you start, ‘Freedom after the Sharks’, despite a difficult family life and professional setbacks, I developed the determination, drive and skills to create a successful business and happy life. Freedom after the Sharks shows how, even in a declining economy, a business can survive and even succeed.

If you want to be an entrepreneur someday, here is an equation you should print out and attach to computer screen, smartphone, office wall:

Entrepreneur + Capital = Products + Customers = Business.

Evan Spiegel is the CEO of Snapchat. That is his job. It is a real company with a real product, real employees, and real investors. And I bet what he really identifies with is the cool ephemeral messaging app the company he co-founded came up with. Which is how they managed to attract hundreds of millions of extremely engaged users and raise more than half a billion dollars in venture funding.

John Mackey is co-CEO of Whole Foods. Healthy food has always been his passion but the way he built his company – to serve all its major stakeholders – is unique. He wrote a book about it called Conscious Capitalism. I seriously doubt if Mackey thinks of himself as a great entrepreneur but as the co-founder of a great company that showed the world a new and better way to do business.

The concluding statement I would like to leave you with is:  “employees are far removed from entrepreneurship in fact a paradigm shift away, most employees would never dream of taking a risk on their own abilities, a risk in their personal security or taking people on a journey that stretched far beyond their imagination, entrepreneurship is not for everyone but can be very rewarding for the few”. A quote from my book by Maya Angelou “ I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life”

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