By proclamation issued by President Barack Obama, November is National Entrepreneurship Month and the third Tuesday of the month is National Entrepreneurship Day. The purpose of national attention on entrepreneurship is to create awareness of innovation, leadership and those who build an empire from absolutely nothing.
The word entrepreneur comes from the French “entreprendre,” which means to undertake. In his “Essay on the Nature of Trade in General,” published in 1755, Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon defined an entrepreneur as a person who buys a product for a certain price and sells it for an uncertain price. Cantillon thus distinguished an investor from the entrepreneur as one taking on risk and dealing with uncertainty. Cantillon is considered to be the “cradle of political economy” by William Stanley Jevons.
In 1800, Jean-Baptiste Say defined the term as follows: “The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower yield and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.” In the 1930s, economist Joseph Schumpeter encapsulated the scope of entrepreneurial contribution as being willing and able to convert a new idea into a successful innovation, for example, using a steam engine and a wagon to create a horseless carriage.
Entrepreneurship is a life of hard work, lots of worry and the absence of the safety net of a regular paycheck. The risk of failure looms for most entrepreneurs, which may motivate even more hard work. Starting a business is not for everyone and should not be lightly undertaken by the risk-averse. But creativity and independence can be driving and determinative forces for those less fearful of risk. I have encouraged clients who are considering starting their own businesses to think about where they want to be in a year, in five years, in ten years – to place their goals in short term and longer term perspective. Fear and uncertainty will always exist, even for successful entrepreneurs, but managing the downsides makes the entrepreneurial endeavor that much more enticing for the innovative.