Strategy and Entrepreneurship—A Discussion of Strategic Entrepreneurs

Franco Gandolfi

INTRODUCTION

The term entrepreneur is, in many ways, one of the most excessively used and misunderstood modern-day business concepts. "Entrepreneur" is often used to refer to individuals who own their businesses. These people may have launched a business endeavor from scratch, purchased an existing entity, or inherited a business operation. It must be understood, however, that an entrepreneurially minded person is much more than a mere owner and/or operator of a business endeavor. So, what exactly is an entrepreneur?

The term entrepreneur has its origin in the French word entreprendre, which literally translates into "undertaking." Over the years, the term has taken on a variety of meanings. On the one extreme, an entrepreneur is a person who is exceptionally talented and skilled and who is seen as a pioneer of revolutionary change, possessing characteristics found only in a small fraction of society. On the other extreme, an entrepreneur is simply a person who pursues a business-type endeavor. In such a capacity, it is probable that he or she is working for himself or herself. Unsurprisingly, many definitions of an entrepreneur have emerged. Some of the definitions are as follows:1

• A person who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise;

• A person who possesses a new enterprise, venture, or idea and is accountable for the inherent risks of the outcome;

• A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture;

• An owner or manager of a business enterprise who, by taking risks and initiative, attempts to make profits; and

• An individual with a vision who orchestrates the time, talent, money, and resources of other people to make the vision real.2

The last definition of an entrepreneur is interesting from a number of viewpoints: First, there is no reference to the assumption of risk in that the entrepreneur has passed the risk element onto investors. Second, there is no reference to a new venture; an entrepreneur can orchestrate a vision of existing businesses into a more efficient and effective organization of business entities. Third, there is no reference to profitability in that some of the greatest, manifested visions have been in the world of not-for-profit endeavors. Fourth, there is no reference to the operation of a business, since many forms of businesses, including licensing and franchising, have emerged to enable others to operate businesses. Last, the reference to vision suggests that the actual vision may not be owned by the entrepreneur; he or she may have borrowed or even stolen somebody else's vision.

THE ENTREPRENEUR AND THE NOTION OF VISION

Consistent with this definition, an entrepreneur is alleged to have the innate ability to conceive, conceptualize, and cast a vision. History books are filled with examples of visionary entrepreneurial leaders. Some notable ones are the following:

Thomas Edison: His vision was to provide relief from human drudgery and the elevation of the human spirit through science;

Henry Ford: His vision was to bring mobility to the masses, specifically to bring the cost of a car down to where the worker who built it could afford to buy it;

Sam Walton: His vision was for people to save money so they could live better;

Bill Gates: His vision was to see a personal computer on every desk and in every home; then to empower people through great software;

Steve Jobs: His vision was to have an Apple computer on every desk (not realized yet) and for people to have an Apple device in every hand (currently being realized);

Richard Branson: He has several visions, from being able to provide affordable records for everyone to affordable travel to destinations in outer space (not realized yet); and

Walt Disney: He also had multiple visions; one of them was to create the happiest place on earth.3

The one characteristic that all these visionary entrepreneurial leaders had or have in common was or is the aspect of a distinctive vision. These leaders envisioned things that did not yet exist and created and transformed the visions into reality. Of course, although there is high probability that these distinguished leaders experienced many great obstacles and challenges, they nonetheless mastered the ability to orchestrate other people's resources in order to breathe life into their visions.

 
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