I want to set the record straight. Just because you work at a start-up does not make you an entrepreneur. Just because you invest in entrepreneurs does not make you an entrepreneur. Just because you sit on a board that makes decisions about entrepreneurs, does not make you an entrepreneur. For some of you (and I hope a lot of you), I expect you to say “No Kidding” but you would be shocked with how many people call themselves entrepreneurs but just suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Yes, we are calling bullshit on the posers.
One earns the title of entrepreneur when he or she takes significant personal risk and financial risk. Personal risk means you are willing to put your
reputation on the line for a new cause. Financial risk means you are willing to put your family’s savings and equity on the line to build something from scratch. For those of you who have never taken both personal and financial risk, you are not an entrepreneur. For those of you that have, FAN-FRIGGIN-TASTIC!
Entrepreneurs have such an unhealthy level of commitment because they are fully responsible for success or failure. Failure is ugly and failure hurts – it is not something to celebrate but rather something to learn from.
So ask yourself a few simple questions:
- Have you experienced sleepless nights because you are staring failure in the face and cannot even comprehend the personal and financial implications because they are so big?
- Have you ever made a shareholder loan to your business?
- Have you ever had to look in the eyes of your child to tell him that everything is going to be alright even though you know you don’t have enough money to get you through next month?
- Do you know how unbelievably good it feels to win when you have worked so hard and put so much on the line?
Entrepreneurs will have answered ‘yes’ to the first three questions and hopefully to the forth one as well.
Put another way, if you negotiated a base salary before your first day of work, you are not an entrepreneur. If you work within a larger organization and have responsibility for a business within that organization, you are not an entrepreneur. If you have steadily increased your net worth through hard work but never sold or mortgaged those assets for your business, you are not an entrepreneur but you are likely an excellent operator. Being an operator is a good thing but call a spade a spade.
The BS radar goes off when an entrepreneur encounters a poser. Unless you have lived it, you can’t claim it. So if you invest in entrepreneurs and are not one yourself, surround yourself with a few that have a clue. Having half a clue is better than just being a pathetic poser.
Author: Whitney Rockley, Co-founder & Managing Partner, McRock Capital