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The Misconceptions of Entrepreneurship

The Misconceptions of Entrepreneurship

Originally posted on Richard Branson’s Linked In page August 12, 2013

By Richard Branson

In the past few decades entrepreneurship has been transformed from a dirty word into one of the most aspirational careers people strive for. So what does being an entrepreneur really mean?

We’ve discussed how you would define the word ‘entrepreneur’ on LinkedIn before, but The Economist’s excellent Schumpeter column got me thinking about the subject again when it described entrepreneurship as: “The modern-day philosopher’s stone: a mysterious something that supposedly holds the secret to boosting growth and creating jobs.”

The article points out the confusion around the purpose of entrepreneurship, as well as the motives behind what makes entrepreneurs tick. As the term has to encompass so many different personalities, businesses and viewpoints, it is only natural that misconceptions crop up. Nevertheless, there are some common traits in entrepreneurs – such as finding “worth in the worthless and possibility in the impossible”.

I was intrigued by Daniel Isenberg’s interpretation; he believes “entrepreneurs are contrarian value creators. They see economic value where others see heaps of nothing. And they see business opportunities where others see only dead ends.” Here, along with his opinion that policy makers need to remove barriers to entry for all sorts of businesses, I wholeheartedly agree.

However, I completely disagree with his view that “the main motivator for entrepreneurs is the chance of making big money”. If you get into entrepreneurship driven by profit, you are a lot more likely to fail. The entrepreneurs who succeed usually want to make a difference to people’s lives, not just their own bank balances. The desire to change things for the better is the motivation for taking risks and pursuing seemingly impossible business ideas.

Although there is healthy debate over entrepreneurial motives, (almost) everybody agrees it is a concept that should be encouraged and celebrated. So how should we go about stimulating the job creators of the future? Mentorship and guidance are just as important as location and funding. At Virgin Unite we are trying to inspire more businesses to become forces for good. We support entrepreneurs through initiatives such as the Branson Centres of Entrepreneurship and are on a mission with The B Team to prioritise people and the planet alongside profit.

There is much more to be done to encourage and nurture the “crazy diamonds” of tomorrow. Where do you think entrepreneurship will go in the coming decades? And what misconceptions do you come across?