Fostering the Spirit of Entrepreneurship – Making a Distinction Between Businessman and Entrepreneur

THIS week I came across a quote by Ted Turner, which says, “My son is now an entrepreneur. That is what you are called when you do not have a job.” This might sound funny, but it is perhaps the reality.

A number of entrepreneurs make sacrifices in order to become masters of their own destiny. Some people in the industry quit high paying jobs and those who struggle to find suitable employment decide to pursue their dreams and adopt the loaded title of being an “entrepreneur.”

Todays’ discussion stems from a conversation I had with some officials in the Directorate of Education. Some people feel that teachers are using the word “business” quite often in the classroom instead of talking about “entrepreneurship”. The question is whether or not there is a difference between the words “business” and “entrepreneurship”?

If we dwell into the literature the concepts are synonymously similar. Both words describe the form of an organisation, starting a business, selling products or bringing about solutions to customers to pay their bills. However, nowadays it sounds better if you are known as an entrepreneur rather than a businessman. I must say though that a so-called entrepreneur would remain a businessman if heshe lacks the substance of being an entrepreneur.

Businessmanship is not a word, but entrepreneurship is. So what is entrepreneurship? Ask your colleague or friend right now what the key distinctions between these two concepts are? Probably some will look at you blank-faced. Some would quickly go onto “Google” and find answers, but what’s the point if we all do that, my column will be boring then wouldn’t it? Let’s go even a little bit further by comparing ourselves to our friends and colleagues and ask why some of us are more successful than others yet we are all in the same industry. All of us might start out very small, but some would apply businessman practices to achieve the results of an entrepreneur.

On the contrary an MBA graduate might do the reverse. Believe you me, a businessman’s approaches are very calculative – he will be frugal when resources are limited in order to survive but he will never sacrifice his vision. If we look at Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos, if a garage is good enough at the beginning, then it is an office.

Businessmen are usually motivated by money when they start a business, while entrepreneurs try and identify the problems they faced and find innovative ways of capitalising on such problems. Essentially entrepreneurs add value, unlike businessmen who go into existing spaces, without adding value through innovation. It is very important to distinguish between these two concepts, as they operate in different environments, and their needs are therefore dissimilar.

It is my wish that we Namibians develop a mindset and the vision to go into any space and add value, because that is what entrepreneurship is the ability to add value. Yes, you can act like a calculative businessman, but you have to develop the mindset of an entrepreneur. The right mindset is more crucial than a step by step guide which tells you how to be an entrepreneur.

A businessman usually cares more about making money, while an entrepreneur cares more about the larger perspective, including humanitarian and community social responsibility. A businessman is usually near-sighted and focuses on monthly sales. An entrepreneur is a visionary and stresses research and development. A businessman usually trades to trade but an entrepreneur builds to trade.

Businessmen usually see employees as costs while an entrepreneur will see them as assets. The core strategy that most businessmen employ is exploitation, while an entrepreneur focuses on human resource development. The way forward is for Namibians to be taught about “both” business and entrepreneurship and develop the competency to distinguish between the two.

Of course this conversation should be solution-based and we all must continue to lobby with the government to create an environment that is fertile and feeds entrepreneurial spirit, to curb unemployment. If we really want to build the Namibian economy, talking about entrepreneurship is important. It is indeed the key to a prosperous economic outlook.

Dr Wilfred Isak April is a Unam graduate and holds a PhD Entrepreneurship (New Zealand). He lectures in Leadership, Organizational Behaviour and Entrepreneurship at the University of Namibia.

Source : New Era