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Having a Job Doesn’t Make You an Entrepreneur

There seems to be this mythology floating around that, regardless of the facts, you are an entrepreneur. For anyone who has been in HR, you are familiar with these sorts of theories that are supposed to make everyone feel good about themselves. One class during college focused on how everyone was a leader in their own special way. I don’t do fuzzy HR and not everyone is a leader. There may be a potential for everyone to become a leader (or an entrepreneur) but not everyone is a leader.

This sort of mythology bugs me because it minimizes the impact and the responsibility of good role players. The laser focus on leadership as the end all in business kills me. Even if you are a great leader, you have to be a great role player to be successful because you will have to be deferential at some point in your career.

What really sparked this frame of mind was Jason Alba’s post about entrepreneurship. I thought it was thoughtful and it made me take a step back. Jason is a textbook case of how an entrepreneur is born. Thrown into crappy circumstances (he was fired) and not having success doing the traditional job hunt, his despondence turned into business opportunity and he made a conscious effort to risk money, health and career on the opportunity in front of him.

So for Jason to say that people who stay at their miserable job for the (false) financial security, cheap health care and the advantages of following a traditional career path are as much of an entrepreneur as him? Yeah, that got my attention.

I understand the point but it doesn’t seem like that’s entrepreneurship to me. He says “You are CEO of Me, Inc.” That just seems to be a self-empowering statement (you are in charge of you). Just because you are in charge of your life doesn’t make you an entrepreneur.

I do think he truly meant what he said but I think he may be overly humble about what he had to go through to get to the point of writing a couple books, getting speaking engagements and so on. I think it is remarkable, just as remarkable as seeing my own family members go through the same struggles, near to complete failures and successes of entrepreneurship. It is hard to fathom that many employees have gone through the same tribulations and taken the same risks as entrepreneurs.

To end this in a semi-comprehensible manner, I believe that arguing that all people are entrepreneurs doesn’t recognize the value that both entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs bring to the table. In your career, sometimes you need to be an employee. There is nothing wrong with being non-entrepreneurial. It’s a choice that is made (whether consciously or not) and it shouldn’t be considered a bad thing.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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