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It’s Time to Purge the Word Entrepreneur

There’s a long-standing debate in business circles about the difference between the use of the term entrepreneur vs. small business owner. The issue centers on the notion that if you’re an entrepreneur you care about high growth and if you’re a small business owner you’re somehow destined to struggle to make ends meet while working your fingers to the bone.

jeff_golden via Flickr

I think it’s one of the silliest distinctions we accept in business and I’ve actually stopped using the term entrepreneur because I think it confuses more than explains.

I suspect there will be those that challenge what I’m suggesting here and that’s okay.

I don’t have anything against people calling themselves that, but the word entrepreneur has become tainted with this view of a person with a big idea, prepared to take on massive risk in an all out effort to go big or go home. For me, it’s just become a silly notion.

You can view your business as an entrepreneurial high growth machine and still work your fingers to the bone with little to show for it and you can create a little lifestyle small business that pays your handsomely and affords you the time to take in the world. So, what’s the distinction now?

I believe there are really only two kinds of small businesses – healthy ones and unhealthy ones.

A healthy business is not just about high growth. It’s about the owner’s decision to commit to a pattern of leadership through constant innovation and a unique way of being and doing that fuels their definition of growth. This is what I call a fully alive business.

Businesses that are lifeless and unhealthy are those that are simply led with the intent of managing and controlling what already exists and that’s the view of the small business that many who strive to be called entrepreneurs want to avoid.

So, you see, the only real difference between one business and another may lie ultimately in how the owner views the business.

The key to creating a fully alive business comes from the audacity to put innovative pressure on the organization at all times. That’s the real  job of business owner.(Okay they have a lot of other jobs too, but that’s the one with the big payoff.) The only question is whether or not they realize and accept that role.

Success through a model of massive growth requires the chaos and doubt that constant innovation creates just as surely as the choice to control growth in an effort to stay true to what you want out of life may suggest another very specific pattern of decision making through innovation.

Either way, the business becomes fully alive through a focus on innovation, not simply on hyper growth.

I guess I’m suggesting that to bring a business fully alive you must bring a little chaos or order will eventually take over and suck the life from the organization. That’s the view of a healthy business, that’s the view of healthy growth in any fashion and that’s what I mean when I talk about the potential of a fully alive small business.

So I wonder if by clinging to the notion of the word entrepreneur, rather than simply embracing the idea of a fully alive business in all shapes and sizes, we are limiting our view of the remarkable opportunity owning a small business really has to offer.

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