Growing up, the guy who fixed our broken faucet was a plumber, the lady who went door to door selling makeup was a makeup saleswoman, and the kid who cut our grass was a nice kid trying to make a little bit of money to help out his family. Nowadays, they are all, “entrepreneurs.”
What is an entrepreneur? The definition has broadened substantially over the years, but to most of the world, it is this:
A person who has a business idea, and formulates a business plan.
They secure investment/financing.
They are actively involved in the execution of the business start-up.
The business sells a product or service and employs multiple people.
They have an exit strategy and execute it.
They duplicate, or attempt to duplicate, the above process at least one more time.
In recent years, the definition has evolved to include anyone that creates or operates a business, and some definitions even include, “a promoter in the entertainment industry.” Why? Why did a word created to define a very specific person need to evolve to include, well, virtually anyone?
It comes down to two things.
1 – An ever-growing industry, created to sell products and services to anyone who may identify as an entrepreneur.
2- The need for affirmation.
If you’ve ever been on social media, or lived on the Planet Earth, you’ve noticed all the products and services geared towards entrepreneurs. Conferences to attend. Podcasts to download. Books to read. Online courses to take. There is a huge industry pedaling stuff to entrepreneurs. The problem was, that was a very, very small audience. It had to expand if the Gary V and Tai Lopez’s of the world were going to make money teaching their secrets. So what did they do? They expanded the definition.
The need to expand the definition to have more people to sell stuff too is what brought in the so called “want-to-preneurs.” It is what lead to this irrational idea that being an entrepreneur was somehow inherently better than being an employee. It is what led to the glorification of being an entrepreneur. The, “being an entrepreneur is the only way to achieve your dreams” sales guru peddlers created a big industry out of what was once a very small niche audience, and people started to buy, and buy, and buy. This lead to a odd thing happening.
Over the past years, we now have countless people who make their entire living off of selling entrepreneur propaganda, and most of these people have never done anything but sell entrepreneur propaganda. In fact, most of them spend most of their time selling to each other. The more people that get involved, the more the need to expand the definition of being an entrepreneur. As time goes on, being an entrepreneur has to continue to be glorified and lifted above all other job titles so that the gurus can continue to increase the audience to sell to. That is the financial incentive reason behind the expansion of what an entrepreneur is, but the psychological one is more alarming to me.
The second reason the definition of what an entrepreneur is has expanded is that the word entrepreneur has become a buzz word meant to virtue signal and to artificially inflate ones opinion of themselves, or perhaps better put, to validate themselves as a way of providing affirmation. I trace this back to the market crash in the 2000’s.
When the market crashed, it left a lot of unemployed people and it led to a reshaping of the american job market. Big money to finance a business was hard to come by. The traditional 9-5 corporate job didn’t offer the job security it use to. Many people were left with self employment being their only option.
Self employment is a tough road to travel. It does have the benefit of, ideally, you’re doing something that you’re great at and and love to do. Being self employed also often comes with more schedule flexibility and a few more freedoms. You can’t sit at your desk in your underwear at JP Morgan Chase, but you can while working from your home office. Being self employed also comes with significantly more challenges than a 9-5 corporate job.
Self employed people often work much longer hours. They have inconsistent pay and no benefits. But here is something vital to all people that is missing as a self employed person, there is no affirmation. There is not a boss saying, “job well done.” There’s no promotion to achieve and celebrate or bonus to get if you reach goals. At its real core, it is not glamorous. It is a thankless job.
We all have a need for affirmation. I myself have a significantly lower need than the average person, but when I go through periods where I don’t get any outside affirmation, it will bring me down. It will bring anyone down no matter how self-assured and strong they are. This makes self employed people susceptible to latching on to the glorification of the word entrepreneur.
Being an entrepreneur gives self employed people something to feel good about. Sure, word may have been artificially inflated by the gurus of the world to pedal their tips and tricks, but the word evokes a real sense of pride and a feeling of belonging for those who are self employed. It helps them feel a bit validated. When they tell others in their fellow entrepreneur circle that they are an entrepreneur, they get some affirmation. While the 9-5’er gets their socialization at the water cooler, the self employed person often gets it online in the company of other self employed people, and almost always they were brought together through some entrepreneur related online group, or met at an entrepreneur conference, or some leg of the “entrepreneur” promotional world.
Why write this?
I see people arguing on social media about who is and who isn’t an entrepreneur. We all have opinions. My bias? I find it hard to consider a Realtor, someone in an MLM like Mary Kay or Herbalife, or a self-employed social media marketer as an entrepreneur. My definition is more or less the same as the original definition. My definition does not matter, neither does yours.
When you see someone promoting themselves as an entrepreneur, and you think to yourself, “they aren’t really an entrepreneur,” think of my two reasons why “entrepreneur” has become such a buzz word. Either the person has grabbed on to the world because of the giant industry around it, which most likely means they’re someone who didn’t find happiness or reach their goals in the more traditional route and they’re trying out the whole “entrepreneur thing,” or they are someone who is self-employed, working hard, and looking for a bit of affirmation and a sense of belonging, and sure maybe a bit of an outside boost to aid them in struggle for self-worth. Either way, you should be encouraging them.
Don’t worry about whether someone fits your definition of what an entrepreneur is, just worry that they’re someone who could benefit from some words of affirmation, and you’ve been placed in the perfect opportunity to do just that. Lift them up.