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Not so long ago there were bakers, butchers and carpenters. Only recently I’ve discovered that these are old-fashioned terms; ‘entrepreneur’ is the job description these people use nowadays. “So you’re a baker?” “Naah… I see myself more as an entrepreneur in the bakery industry.”

The entrepreneurial attitude has successfully competed its way up the ladder of human virtues. It’s currently valued as one of the most profound expressions of human superiority. Check the media: economic growth, innovation, education, science, arts, health care… these will all benefit from entrepreneurship. It’s the panacea for all adversity. Everybody loves the entrepreneur!

But what is an entrepreneur? Frankly, I don’t know. Academics in general don’t seem to know either, given their dozens of definitions. Maybe consulting company Ernst & Young, initiator of the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Award, knows? This “Nobel prize of Entrepreneurship” (I don’t make this up) is awarded to “those who build the market-leading companies that make the world a better place”. Such implies that entrepreneurs work for the Red Cross or Greenpeace, but the list of laureates consists of companies like Google and Southwest Airlines… I’m lost.

Last month, a window of opportunity occurred for finding out about the secret of the entrepreneurial spirit. I had an appointment with one of these half-Gods: a serial entrepreneur!

Well…it was disappointing. This is in a nutshell what the serial entrepreneur said:

Time = money

Money = God

Okay, maybe his idiom was slightly more ‘gurulesque’, but admit that overall this sounds like the average businessman. And again: no answer to my question.

So, based on the previous I’ve come to the following definition: An entrepreneur is someone who does things.

This clearly shows that entrepreneurs are active people. At the same time I realise that the admiration of entrepreneurship perfectly fits the omnipresent efficiency mantra: do more with less (the more friendly way of saying: “Work harder, you slacker”). Efficiency requires activity. Sitting still is suspicious; contemplation is for monks, artists and other idlers. Don’t think; act! Gogogo!


Thomas Thijssens, lecturer at the School of Business and Economics




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