“Reluctant Entrepreneur” – A Contradiction in Terms?

With the state of the housing market in recent years the media term “reluctant landlord” has been coined. It applies to those renting out a first property, which they are unable sell, to allow the purchase or rental of a second property, which they need to move to for work or family reasons.

A similar pattern has emerged amongst those seeking new opportunities in the job market. Faced with a constant silence in response to job applications and economic hardship, many are turning to setting up their own business and joining the entrepreneurial bandwagon. As an investor, I have seen many of these people seek funding. It appears their motivation is based on there being no alternative. I have previously referred to these people as “reluctant entrepreneurs”.

However, is this not a contradiction in terms? The dictionary definition of an entrepreneur is “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” This definition is inaccurate.

Whilst there are many other definitions of entrepreneur, the best I have found is that by Chris Oakley OBE:

“An entrepreneur sees an opportunity which others do not fully recognise, to meet an unsatisfied demand or to radically improve the performance of an existing business. They have unquenchable self-belief that this opportunity can be made real through hard work, commitment and the adaptability to learn the lessons of the market along the way.

“They are not diverted or discouraged by skepticism from ‘experts’ or from those from whom they seek backing and support, but willing to weigh all advice and select that which will be helpful. They are prepared not just to work seriously hard but to back their judgment with personal investment at a level which will cause problems if they are wrong about the opportunity. They understand that achievements are the result of team work and knows how to choose the necessary blend of talents and inspire them with their vision.”

This definition is based on an attitude of mind and reflects what I look for when deciding if to invest in an entrepreneur. It is my belief that despite the dictionary definition you cannot be a reluctant entrepreneur nor can you learn to be one. If you have not got the burning passion to succeed you will be both reluctant and ultimately unsuccessful. Entrepreneurs are not those that set up businesses to avoid economic hardship, but those that are willing to risk hardship for their business, and these are the people that investors will invest in.