When I finally screwed up the courage to leave the world of corporate cubicles and launch my own start-up company, it presented me with an interesting problem – what do I say when people ask me what I do?
No longer can I be pigeon-holed into one of those generic, but succinct and important-sounding responses such as “accountant” or “regional manager”. As a new business owner I wear many hats that can change daily, or even hourly. A simple title doesn’t even begin to do justice.
If I tell people I have just started a company, they inevitably demand an explanation of what the company does. Now that is easy to answer if you are providing an existing product or service, but how do you explain a missionary business before people’s eyes glaze over and they start looking for someone more interesting to talk to? This is a real problem for tech start-ups where typically only 1% of the population would even understand what the hell you are talking about.
So I tell people that I am an entrepreneur.
At this point they can explore further if they are truly interested, or use the response to say “that’s nice!” before leading onto more interesting topics (usually themselves).
I like calling myself an entrepreneur. It made me feel dashing and innovative, a heady mix of Zorro and Richard Branson.
However now I am not so sure.
It seems that now, it is not enough to simply be an entrepreneur – you have to be a serial entrepreneur. That’s because serial entrepreneurs are way better than stodgy old ‘normal’ entrepreneurs!
I mean, it sounds so much more glamorous, as though you simply can’t help yourself from having ideas and spinning out new businesses.
As sexy as it sounds, however, is being a serial entrepreneur any more laudable than a ‘normal’ entrepreneur, who starts only one or two businesses and works hard to build them into larger, sustainable organisations?
Why do we not admire those who stick at a business and work every day to refine and innovate existing products and processes, and grow lasting shareholder value, rather than those throwing off smaller businesses like breeding gremlins?
Personally, I think it is all a bit of a wank.
As entrepreneurs we have shunned the corporate world with its social politics and important-sounding titles, because we care more about product and process, and the rush of creating something of value from nothing but your own idea.
So let us not try to outdo each other for sexier titles.
Let us celebrate quality over quantity.
Let us rejoice together in the shared thrill of the start-up.
This does, of course, exclude the lovely Carolyn Cresswell, the founder of Carman’s Muesli. Now there is a real cereal entrepreneur!
Richard Andrews is the founder and director of Find My Retirement Home, a business that provides independent advice and buyer’s agency services to retirees looking to purchase a retirement home, as well as training, information and resources to professional advisors.
He is not as grumpy as he sounds in this article.