So You Wannabe…An Entrepreneur?


Timothy Spall last night told a story recounted to him by that great British legend of the stage and small screen Richard Briers.

Briers’ daughter had said something like, ‘Dad, I have made up my mind.  I want to be an actress.’

Briers replied ‘Want?  Want?  Want is not enough!  To succeed you must HAVE to become an actress.  If you have to become an actress then I will roll up my sleeves and help. If you just want to be an actress then forget it.’

The story made me smile as I use almost the identical line when I am working with people who tell me they want to start a business, or they want to become an entrepreneur.  I often ask ‘Is this something that you HAVE to do?  Are there no other alternatives that you could pursue?  Is there NOTHING more important than this in your foreseeable future?

In fact I will often go further, telling them all I can about the life of the entrepreneur.  How it can take you away from family and friends, lead you into debt, consume your life and damage your health.  Of course we explore the upsides as well but those downsides are the things that will derail the process if not considered, if the desire is not sufficient.

And then I will move the focus away from ‘becoming an entrepreneur’ which is such a vague concept as to be practically meaningless and will focus on what it will be like when they have their business up and running.  What it is like to be sole trading as a furniture upholsterer, or a plasterer.  What the transition will be like going from being a professor in the Biochemistry Department to being a part owner of a biosciences company working with venture capitalists to commercialise their intellectual property.  Because being an entrepreneur is all about managing transitions.  Starting with one lifestyle and ending up with another which is very different – and hopefully better.

Enterprise really IS about the emergence of identity.  About shaping lives.

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