Redefining “entrepreneur”

Redefining “entrepreneur”

When I was a little kid, I didn’t really know what my dad did. I knew that he was a “businessman.” As I do now, he travelled a fair amount; unlike me, he dressed up in nice suits and funkadelic ’70s ties and used words like “salesmen,” “quota” and “leads.”

My own kids don’t fully get what I do. They understood it better when I built a school, though explaining the concept of the world’s first “boarding school on wheels that travels to three new cities each year” was definitely a challenge. But working in law and education, as I did, was more concrete.

I don’t always have the vocabulary to explain what an “entrepreneur” is. I can explain “I help people start businesses,” which is true, simplistic, narrow. I can tell them “I advise people, give them help where and when they need it,” but that’s getting vague. And whenever I slip and mention “entrepreneur” in describing my own ventures, I lose them just as my dad lost me, the listener slipping into the warm blanket of the generic.

It’s time to redefine “entrepreneur,” and not into something just plain silly like “superhero” or “ninja.” At our core, an entrepreneur is a “maker” and a “doer.”

We make things. We sometimes surprise ourselves and make something remarkably beautiful and useful, like Path, Asana and Brewster. At our worst, we always strive to create, which is a pretty amazing day when you think about it.

And, yes, we “do.” We sometimes do amazing things, like create a company that fills the plates and furnaces not only of the ones we love, but of those who help us in our doing and the ones they love.

Really, the core of what we do is so much simpler than what my dad and the other dads did, though it is cloaked in a mythology of the complex.