Don’t be an Entrepreneur! Do this instead.
Don’t be an Entrepreneur! Do this instead.
When I was younger, specifically around 23, I had the opportunity to grab some free coaching from an “expert” here in the UK on how to grow my business.
At this point, I was around 6 months into my first business and once I'd sat down and gotten through the million or so forms that the advisor asked me to fill in, we got to the meat of the session.
Back then, my sole focus was selling websites to small businesses. This was 2008-ish and web design hadn't become the commoditised process that it has now for small business. Online web builder tools didn't really exist and it was still a bit of a dark art.
My growth intent was simple: sell as many websites at the right price for me and my clients as I can. Do that for long enough to be able to build an internal team so that I could focus on growth, thus overcoming the age-old “get the work, do the work” cycle and then figure where to go next – figure where would growth and opportunity come from.
Super simple, right?
I thought so, too.
But the advisor, well she just didn't understand it.
In fact, she kept asking me the same question:
“How many websites could you realistically “take” per month?”
And my answer was always the same:
“As many as I can get a hold of that are the right kind of job for me and the business.”
She was looking for a number, and I wouldn't give it to her for one simple reason that I explained to her: with some quality management, I could simply outsource the build and the design of the sites to a quality set of people that I'd already vetted and put in place so actually, I could take many more projects than I could even find, because I've built the network.
She really didn't get it and we agreed to disagree, calling the session to a close after about 20 minutes.
But hey, at least I had filled in her paperwork so she got paid.
That day rate, though.
The grapevine made me think, though
Around 6 weeks after that session I was talking to another startup in the foyer of the building I was in at the time and it turns out that he'd had free “support” from the very same mentor.
Probably filled in the paperwork, too.
That day rate, though.
It turns out that the chap I was talking to had had a similar experience with said “coach” and I'd come up in the conversation, too.
Apparently the lady actually really rather enjoyed our session, despite adding no value, and had mentioned to the chap I was talking to that I was “very entrepreneurial.
That made me laugh.
No, I'm not. I just saw logical, commonsensical paths to not being bogged down in working “in” my business rather than “on” my business.
I never once considered myself an entrepreneur. In fact, I didn't even consider myself entrepreneurial in spirit or outlook.
I just had ideas, executed them and wasn't afraid of falling on my arse.
That was the first time that anyone had labelled that behaviour as “entrepreneurship”.
The fact that I'd not made a penny at that point didn't seem to matter.
And so the chase begins.
This whole episode has always stuck with me.
For one thing, it taught me that “experts” are probably just winging it most of the time and that it's not about listening to every “expert” that crosses your path, but it's about finding an “expert” who at least sees your vision as you do, even if they challenge it and force it to grow.
The second thing that this episode taught me is that I don't want to be an entrepreneur.
Honestly, I couldn't care less about it. The only reason it says it on my social media profiles is because of the character limit!
I'm uncomfortable with the word as a way to describe me.
And it's not because of imposter syndrome. It's actually because it doesn't matter in the slightest.
I just get shit done.
If I have an idea, I'll test it or park it up for later, depending on current focus and circumstance.
I didn't quit my job to be an entrepreneur. I quit my job because I wanted to do something for me.
Sure, that's screaming out for the label of “entrepreneur” but the point I'm getting to is this:
I see SO many people pursuing the label of “entrepreneur” instead of just doing the fucking work.
In 2007 I went to a talk at a local university. I didn't go there as a student but with no beard, even less stubble and weighing 70lbs less than I do now, I was able to blag my way in.
I say blag, I mean sneak in the back and fear for my freedom throughout the entire thing. I'm no rebel.
The talk was on business, specifically the options for creating your own business after leaving university.
During the session the speaker said something that profoundly struck me:
“People don't call themselves ‘entrepreneurs', it's other people who call it them behind their back.”
Here's the thing: we're more connected than ever today. That's great, it really is. The opportunities are endless.
But constant social media consumption and the reading of every single piece of literature that we can consume in order to give ourselves the confidence that we need to start our own thing can lead us to believing our own press.
We can all fall into the trap of calling ourselves entrepreneurs at events and it's super easy to create motivational quote images with sunset backgrounds on Instagram.
The reality is that a true entrepreneur doesn't really care about any of that.
The people that I admire are the people who just get their head down and do what they do.
They just crack on. They help people and if an opportunity comes up to help people in another way that they haven't tried yet, then they'll try that, too.
Are they entrepreneurs?
Do they care?
Don't focus on the label. Don't focus on chasing the “dream” of entrepreneurship.
Instead, just follow your own path, find a problem that you can solve and be yourself doing it.
Then in ten years, look back and give yourself the chance to appreciate that you made a difference, that you are entrepreneurial but that you chose to chase helping people instead of creating a superficial label for yourself that results in nothing more than an underperforming social media presence.
Remember why you do it.
It's NOT because you want to be an entrepreneur.
You have something else, you have your own reasons for reading this post, for being on this website; your own reasons for not following the path that your childhood friends followed.
You got this.
Just make sure you know that “this” isn't chasing something that ultimately, doesn't matter.
Don't forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel.
Also published on Medium.