What is an Entrepreneur?

As a student in business school surrounded by people that want to be entrepreneurs, I can’t help but think about what it takes to become the next great entrepreneur and what traits they have. I see some people doing everything they can to get in the startup game. And I see others thinking that if they can only work at a tech company, or in Silicon Valley, then that makes them an entrepreneur. But the more I think about it, I know people just as entrepreneurial but in other industries and other locations.

In addition to the traditional entrepreneurs we often think of, I meet lots of people who are very entrepreneurial but who are working in various industries. They are often working in lage companies, law firms, consulting firms, and nonprofits, all places not traditionally seen as entrepreneurial. But despite the difference in the name of their employer, these people are just as adept at playing the political game, understand how to find new ways to create value and figure out how to mobilize resources in order to create it.

Many times, these people are tasked to come up with new ventures or new products/services for their companies. And they are charged to look into the future and can see a better day at the company, even in the midst of uncertain times. As I think about it even more, a lot of them are even visionaries, just like startup founders I’ve met.

The perfect example is my old manager who currently lives and works in Boston. Aubrey was a senior executive at a Fortune company and led a practice area of the entire firm. So he was not only charged with P&L of that practice area but also with hiring and developing people, coming up with new analytical techniques, and developing the brand in the US.  He’d worked in startups before, and in Silicon Valley, but this was his new role.

And so as I reflect on the best entrepreneurs, there was no doubt that Aubrey had all the skills to be in the running – managing a good team, strong vision, and appetite for risk. He also has the ability to make things happen out of nowhere. And it occurred to me that Aubrey is an entrepreneur just like anyone else that goes to Silicon Valley. He leverages principles of entrepreneurship and does things that people in the startup ecosystem do everyday. Except he works at a big company.

Unfair or not, one bad thing about being at a big company is that it doesn’t sound as cool as being in the startup world and it usually doesn’t have the same upside in pay. On the other hand, some of the best entrepreneurs I know, actually work in big companies. Funny how that works.

Friday, January 6th, 2012 Careers

2 Comments to What is an Entrepreneur?

Subhakar Rao
January 18, 2012

Nicely explained!

Jeremy C Wilson
January 18, 2012

@Subhakar Rao Thanks so much!

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.

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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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