This column is anchored on a worldview espoused in a Forbes article by Donna M. De Carolis, which she entitled: “We are all Entrepreneurs: It’s a Mind-set, Not a Business Model.” Let me start by quoting liberally from her article, then share my insights.
“All of us are entrepreneurs. We are all born with the innate ability to survive; and survival involves innovative thinking. Think about your life. Think about the times you needed to make a decision—a choice—that involved doing something innovative (something you were not accustomed to doing) so that you could “move on” or adapt to a challenging situation. In our normal course of daily living, we are faced with choices.”
“When we choose to embark on a path not chartered, we are engaging in a small act of entrepreneurship. Being entrepreneurial is essentially about thinking and doing something that we have not done before, in order to achieve a desirable goal or outcome. It is about assessing a situation, designing alternatives and choosing a new way—or perhaps a combination of ways—that we hope will lead us to something better; however, we happen to define better at the moment. Hopefully, we make our choices in the context of maximizing our happiness without harming others—the ethics that underlie all of our choices.”
“My bet is that your small act of entrepreneurship is manifested as the choice you make to alter your life; to go through the pain of detaching yourself from what you usually do and attempt a new course of action; the pain of choosing to be resilient in the face of adversity; the gut wisdom of taking a risk because you know that you just can’t do more of the same. Maybe it is starting a company; maybe it is presenting a new idea to your boss; maybe it is choosing to pursue a degree; maybe it is physically moving to another location . . . the choices are endless and we face them throughout our lives.”
Entrepreneurship is not just about business. We’ve all been programmed to characterize it that way and De Carolis’ views are worth reflecting on by anybody who is embarking on doing something desirable but new. It can be inside your workplace, your organization, your association, or even in your personal sphere, like in your church. As De Carolis aptly concluded, “when we think innovatively and act on that innovation, we are entrepreneurs.”
This mindset view is important, especially for those already working for somebody else but are enthralled by the entrepreneurship mania that envelops today’s social media. It is fashionable these days to encourage people to leave the corporate world, to go out and start a business. Many stories are told of the upstart who started his business from a garage and is now a certified tycoon. Even schools are now introducing business planning and entrepreneurship as core courses. Self-help books abound on what it takes to start a business. It is a romanticized idea that we all should be our own boss.
But as this perspective demonstrates, working in an organization may not be as glamorous as the so-called business entrepreneurs, but it still offers room for entrepreneurship. Employees are some of the most diligent and enterprising people in the world, who, through their innovation within an organized setting, are able to contribute to a new process, a new product, a new service or even a small improvement. The prototypical entrepreneur running his own business is not for all, but we can still be entrepreneurs.
We can be entrepreneurs inside an organized setting. It is no less gratifying as it develops the individual through learning specialized skill sets, working in a team, acquiring interpersonal skills, being responsible for a component of the value chain, taking accountability for a key result area and developing self-discipline within organizational goals. And perhaps if we take the entrepreneurial mindset, we can someday jump to business entrepreneurship, but only if the opportunity presents itself and not because it is the end goal.
We do not discourage the traditionally defined business entrepreneurs to flourish but it is good to remember that we can be entrepreneurs wherever we are. And find fulfilment in this state of affairs.
Benel D. Lagua is executive vice president at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He is an active FINEX member and a long time advocate of risk-based lending for SMEs. The views expressed herein are his own and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of his office, as well as FINEX.