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Entrepreneur: Personality or Position? [Podcast]

Episode 136: Michael and Kathryn discuss and debate the definition of the word, Entrepreneur. This particular fuzzy term gets kicked around a lot in the business world, so if you aren't sure you'd call yourself an entrepreneur or think it might just be a personality type, then give this episode a listen.

Business man walking on street


In This Episode You Will...

  • Hear the tale of Michael's childhood dream of becoming a Bachelor Millionaire.
  • Find out Michael and Kathryn's personal definitions of 'Entrepreneur' (as well as the dictionary's).
  • Get insight into how fuzzy terms affect the outcomes of group conversations.
“You can all be thinking you are talking about the same thing, but you all define a word differently, so your problem solving can get messed up because everyone walks away with a different conclusion."
-Michael K. Redman

Resiliency Quiz

References:

The Reluctant Entrepreneur (by Michael Masterson)

 

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Michael:
              Hello everyone, and welcome to the HaBO Village podcast. I'm Michael Redman.


Kathryn:
               And I'm Kathryn Redman.


Michael:
              And this is the podcast to help business leaders build Passion and Provision companies full of profit, purpose, and legacy, the kind of legacy that you want to leave. And we're excited today to get together and talk about entrepreneurs.


Kathryn:
               Yeah. So Michael and I are being interviewed all over the place, which is super fun, such a privilege.


Michael:
              We're very, very important people.


Kathryn:
               Yes, we're very popular, trying to get more popular as we go. That's our goal in life is popularity, just kidding. Okay. But all that to say, one of the guys that was interviewing us this morning, we was on Lifeology with James Miller, is the guy's name. And we were talking about kind of a little bit of our background. And he said, you know, "Did you always want to do this? How did this come about?" And this concept came up that I say quite often, and that is that, "I'm a reluctant entrepreneur."


Michael:
              Yep. And in the middle of this, I thought, I wonder if an entrepreneur is either a personality type. Because we talk about them so often that entrepreneurs are, they're a personality type. Or are they, like you're born an entrepreneur, or you're not? Or is it a position? What's the deal with this? Because I would say I was thinking this, and I wanted to ask this on that podcast, but it was only like a 22-minute podcast. And I was thinking, oh my gosh, we won't be able to get this out. It'll be distracting, and it'll be not the point. But it's perfect for our podcast, is, let's talk about this because this word entrepreneur gets used a lot. I would call it a fuzzy word. It means depending on the different types of people you're talking to, it may mean different things.


Kathryn:
               Do you want to know what it means in the dictionary?


Michael:
              It means a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.


Kathryn:
               Okay. That was amazing. That's behind my head. I looked it up on my phone, and he's reading it on the screen behind my head because he had also looked it up. Great minds think alike. I guess.


Michael:
              You should've seen her folks, she was all ready to just go.


Kathryn:
               I was ready.


Michael:
              I know.


Kathryn:
               I had something to contribute. It was my one thing. I have nothing else to say.


Michael:
              All right. That's it for today. No. So, that's what an entrepreneur is. So if the dictionary, whatever dictionary this is, Oxford comes out and says, "It's a person who organizes, operates a business," you are an entrepreneur. And a reluctant entrepreneur, I get it. You're an entrepreneur who didn't clamor. Because the question that was asked of us on this other podcast was, "Were you always interested? Did you always want to be involved in business as you were growing up?" And for me, it was like, I was always trying to make a buck, and I was always trying to hock something or work my way in.


Kathryn:
               Ever since, the little rabbit, Bugs Bunny shoe shine kit.


Michael:
              Well, and evidently before that. So remember the story about the Sunday school teacher?


Kathryn:
               Oh, yeah, yeah.


Michael:
              I don't know if they've heard this or not, but my parents took me to church, like from the moment I was born. And the way this goes is my Sunday school teacher, when I was three or four years old, Ernestine Davis was her name. The Davises were lovely people, and they were in our church for years, and she passed away in my twenties. Anyway, Ernestine, maybe even later, Ernestine asked me one day because my mom would dress me up in these little suits and ties, one suit and one tie at a time.


Kathryn:
               You numpty. Captain obvious.


Michael:
              And when I walked into Sunday school, she goes, "Michael, why are you so dressed up today?" And I said, "I'm practicing to be a bachelor millionaire."


Michael:
              And I'm telling you folks, this sounds like a funny story and like, nah. No, Ernestine remembered this for my entire life. And, matter of fact, when I was 18 years old, I got a birthday card that commented about someday being a bachelor millionaire.


Kathryn:
               Was she resentful when I came along? Like it messed up the plan?


Michael:
              I don't know.


Kathryn:
               Huh.


Michael:
              My mom would talk to her because she was old and getting senile and everything else. But she always asked, near the end even. And I'm just thankful I didn't become a bachelor or stay a bachelor. But being an entrepreneur, so it's like, okay, well, an entrepreneur, somebody who makes money, somebody who runs a business. Evidently, it was in my blood early on. From mistletoe on trees, we would cut it down and sell it from door to door. I was a door to door salesman by the time I was in third grade, to all kinds of stuff.


Michael:
              So it was easy to say yes. And some of you listening today are going, "Yeah, I'm always like that." But there's actually a book called Reluctant Entrepreneur. The Reluctant Entrepreneur is really interesting because the guy's a business person. But he isn't one of these crazy risks, do all kinds of nutso things, and all that kind of stuff, which sometimes get associated with entrepreneurs.


Kathryn:
               Well, I mean, certainly even part of this definition that you read is the concept that, typically, the entrepreneur is the person who's willing. Or whether they're willing or not.


Michael:
              I'm like, there's no willing in this definition.


Kathryn:
               Takes on more risk than most.


Michael:
              Well, we took on the risk when we started Half a Bubble Out. And when we hire people, we take on the risks.


Kathryn:
               Because you're an entrepreneur.


Michael:
              You are too.


Kathryn:
               Reluctantly.


Michael:
              You might be reluctant, but. Okay, so this is this whole concept. I think that when we started this, we weren't sure exactly where this was going to go today. Because one of these conversations that was interesting is, why do people think it's just a personality thing when actually what you're doing is you're organizing and operating a business? So I don't think entrepreneur always means this crazy out of the box doing stuff. I think that's where the reluctant entrepreneur comes. So I think it's more of a position and a decision. You have to actually do something to be called an entrepreneur. I don't think it's a personality trait.


Kathryn:
               Hmm. I feel like there are personalities and personality types that lean towards becoming entrepreneurs.


Michael:
              I don't have a problem with that.


Kathryn:
               So these are the folks that are going to enroll in programs that never existed when we were going to school that are like entrepreneurship programs. That never even existed when we were in school.


Michael:
              No, it didn't exist.


Kathryn:
               The school of entrepreneurship.


Michael:
              Some of them suck.


Kathryn:
               Well.


Michael:
              We've investigated some of them. Some of them are like, they loosely use a word, we're going to teach you to create your own small business. Because most business programs and most universities teach these kids a fictitious idea of corporate America and then send them off to get a job in corporate America, it's awful. Just my opinion.


Kathryn:
               Humble though. It isn't.


Michael:
              I got frustrated when Jenna was going to school. I liked some of the stuff she got, but I got frustrated with it because we were looking for an entrepreneurial program. And every time we looked, more often than not, I was like, these people don't even know what it's like to start a business and actually run it. They might know what it looks like to work in corporate America. And ultimately, most of the people in Jenna's program, they were all going to Amazon or Boeing or some other [crosstalk 00:07:07].


Kathryn:
               Yeah. But she wasn't in a traditional entrepreneurship program. She was in the School of Business, right?


Michael:
              Well, that's true. The option they had for entrepreneurial study was not even a full degree.


Kathryn:
               Limited. It was limited.


Michael:
              Yeah, it was limited and not even a full degree. But again, we digress. This whole idea of, is it a personality? I think that there are people who are more inclined personality-wise to actually start their own business, people who are risk-takers, people who are industrious, people who are more inclined to be independent.


Kathryn:
               Who don't want to work for someone else?


Michael:
              Yeah. Don't want to, or don't need to. I don't think all entrepreneurs. We've met a lot of them. I don't think all of them don't want to work for somebody else. I think a lot of them don't want to work for somebody else. But I think some of them are like, "You know, we could have done that. We did it. It was great. I was looking for a different lifestyle." And then there's people who become entrepreneurs, who would much rather work for somebody else.


Kathryn:
               Well, and that's happening a lot this year, isn't it? People who are like, "I just need to do something to make a living." And so they're starting things in a world where they had some job security, or they were working for a company, and things were working out. They would not have automatically wanted to do that. So for some of them, it was a push forward to something they've wanted to do but put on hold. For others, it's just a desperate reaction to the challenges of COVID-19. Right?


Michael:
              Yeah. Yeah. So if you're an entrepreneur listening today, you're either an entrepreneur, or in another company, or you've started your own company. Because it's really interesting people who are entrepreneurs also a lot of times entrepreneur, the word entrepreneur gets pushed out to mean I started a company. I'm like, "We have small companies. We start companies." Because if you've had a company for 10 years, are you still an entrepreneur, a person who organizes and operates a business. It's funny because if you talk to people who've been like, "I've been in the same company 20 years. Am I an entrepreneur?" I don't know.


Kathryn:
               Yeah. Well, the word entrepreneur has a connotation of brand new to it. Or it has a connotation of like, are you an entrepreneur? For example, this is where it gets dicey for me. Are you an entrepreneur if you started a business and you're running a business for 20, 25, 30, 40 years successfully? Or are you only an entrepreneur if that's so in your blood that you become a serial entrepreneur and you're starting businesses all the time, and you're starting multiple businesses?


Kathryn:
               For me, more than personality or position, in some ways, that's where it gets dicey for me. Can you be a one-time entrepreneur that's successful? And you're still an entrepreneur because you still started the business, you're taking on the risks, you're continuing to grow it. You're launching new products. You're creating vision and strategy. You're just not doing it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.


Michael:
              That would be a serial entrepreneur?


Kathryn:
               Right. So I think that's where it gets dicey for me. Is an entrepreneur a person who one time starts a business and has been in it 20 years? You asked earlier, "Can you still be an entrepreneur?"


Michael:
              Yeah. Well, what do you think the answer is?


Kathryn:
               I think the answer is yes.


Michael:
              Yes. Because you're organizing and operating a business according to this definition.


Kathryn:
               Mm-hmm (affirmative). And continuing to take risks.


Michael:
              Yeah. Well, as long as you stay in business.


Kathryn:
               As long as you run a company, you're going to be doing that.


Michael:
              I feel like that's saying to a pilot, whether you're just taking off or you've been in the air four hours, are you taking a risk? Yes, you're thousands of feet off the ground in a machine that, as soon as the motor goes out, you plummet to the ground. Yeah, I think that's taking a risk. So yes. As long as you're in business, you're taking a risk. So maybe we're all entrepreneurs position-wise.


Michael:
              So this is based on action and behavior. Is it a personality? Is somebody an entrepreneur? If they're an entrepreneur by personality because that's the way a lot of people talk, "Oh, they're such an entrepreneur." Have they ever started a business, or are they running a business, and organizing business, and taking risk at the moment?


Kathryn:
               Or are they just full of ideas?


Michael:
              Or are they just full of ideas? Because some people go, "I'm very entrepreneurial. I'm just an entrepreneur at heart. I have all these great ideas. I have all these business ideas." And then they never do anything. Our nephew's like that. Our nephew in Texas is like that. He's a sharp business guy, brilliant, great with analytics. I kind of get the feeling he thinks of himself as an entrepreneur. Even though he's never started a business, he's always worked for larger companies.


Kathryn:
               Yeah.


Michael:
              But he's never run a business. Not even as a teenager did he start his own business. So is he an entrepreneur? If you're a personality-based person, then you can say, I don't need to actually run the company to be an entrepreneur, as opposed to a position. What do you think?


Kathryn:
               I don't know. Okay, and here's the ultimate question, because this is your topic.


Michael:
              Yeah. Oh. The ultimate question.


Kathryn:
               Why does it matter?


Michael:
              Why does it matter? Oh my gosh, why does it matter? Of course, it matters.


Kathryn:
               Why?


Michael:
              Because language is important, being specific about what we're talking about is important because we can all be in the same room using the same words and thinking we're talking about the same thing when we're not. Because if entrepreneur is a type of person, as opposed to an actual position that you have. You have organized or started a business, you're running a business, and you're taking risks. You know, there's that term intrapreneurial. So the entrepreneur takes the risks on their own and comes up with ideas and starts things, and gets things started. The intrapreneur is the word that they came up with for somebody who kind of acts entrepreneurial. They don't like status quo. They like to come up with new ideas and start new things. And they're good starters of things, but they never take the financial risk.


Kathryn:
               Right.


Michael:
              They're always doing it inside of a company. But they used to say that, "Oh, I'm an entrepreneur. I'm entrepreneurial. I started this new program and this new department and this new, all this." It's like, well, that's good, but there's no financial risk when your pension is in place, and somebody else is paying your bills, and that's not entrepreneurial.


Michael:
              So I think it's important because it's like, what are we really talking about? And at some level, it's like, even for those of us that are entrepreneurs, I'm like the classic entrepreneur in all those definitions. I was born with that bent. I like it. I'm not rich, but I always was looking for-


Kathryn:
               Nor are you a bachelor.


Michael:
              Nor am I a bachelor. But I was always looking for, how do I make an extra buck? How do I put an extra buck in my pocket? And I always was looking for creative ways to make something, sell something, and put money in my pocket as opposed to going and doing something that was more... I was never a blue-collar kid, even though I mowed lawns, and I really enjoyed landscaping. That was fun. But other than that, I got to do it myself on my own schedule and all that. I didn't really understand as a teenager how important mowing somebody's lawn, a client's lawn, on the same day every week was. I would kind of vary days.


Kathryn:
               Yeah, that doesn't go well.


Michael:
              But I kept my clients for the most part. And they were just happy that young Michael Redman was out there mowing their lawn, and they didn't have to. And I cared about quality.


Michael:
              So that said, I'm the personality type, but I'm also the, we took the risks, we started, we threw our money, crap if this falls apart it's going to hurt a lot type of that. And you were willing to come with me on this journey and then became part of it with me on this journey. And then you did it again with Rabbit Hole Hay.


Kathryn:
               Yeah. Yeah. And I would say, I am definitely an entrepreneur by position, if not by personality. But you would say that my ability to take risks and all of that has really, really grown.


Michael:
              Yeah.


Kathryn:
               The difference, though, is that like, if something were to happen and you are not in the picture anymore, and I'm on my own, the odds of me starting a business unless it was just something like personal coaching, one-on-one that kind of stuff.


Michael:
              Right. Right.


Kathryn:
               I'm probably not going to do that.


Michael:
              That's fair. Does that mean you were never an entrepreneur? Does that mean during this season of our life, you weren't an entrepreneur?


Kathryn:
               No. It doesn't mean that.


Michael:
              I think more and more, it really is. So why does all this matter? I think today's podcast is about commentary more than anything else.


Kathryn:
               We're just yakking about conversational-


Michael:
              But I think these things are important. I think they need to be discussed and talked about. I think there's value in even the discussion because of knowing what you're going to say, how you're going to interact with people. And if nothing else, when somebody says, "I'm an entrepreneur," asking them, what do you mean by that? Or when somebody says, "Have you always been entrepreneurial?" What do you mean by that? Have I always taken risks and started organizations and run businesses? No, I didn't do that at five years old.


Kathryn:
               I don't think they're asking about when you're five years old.


Michael:
              I know they're not, but when they say something like on a podcast, "Did you grow up like this? Were you always like this?" Actually, I think they do. Unfortunately, by the way, the question is, they do mean five years old. And you know, I got my first shoe shine kit at what, seven, eight. We lived on Sunset at the time, and I walked over to the liquor store and stood out front of the liquor store. Those were the days, folks, when a seven-year-old could walk two blocks from home, and stand in front of the liquor store, and hustle business.


Kathryn:
               Ah, the good old days.


Michael:
              The good old days.


Kathryn:
               Oh, dear.


Michael:
              But, you know, customer service early. What are you going to do? I just think it's very interesting. And I really wanted to talk about it earlier today. And so now we're talking about it here on the podcast. If you're listening today, you're going, "Oh my gosh, the Redmans they're off their rocker today." Or maybe you're going, "Oh, this is really interesting." I just want you to think about it. Think about the use of fuzzy terms.


Michael:
              And when we talk about fuzzy terms, if you've listened to this podcast enough, you know that fuzzy terms are really a concept where an abstract word that gets used like love, or fun, or entrepreneur that gets used in a communication. That you can actually be having a conversation with somebody or a group of people, all be thinking you're talking about the same thing, but you all define the word differently. It's one of those words that could be defined differently based on context, or people, or whatever. And so your problem solving can be messed up. The ultimate conclusion to a conversation, everybody walks away with a different conclusion because they have a different definition of what was going on.


Kathryn:
               Well, and I guess if you're thinking about, even from a marketing perspective, if my target market is entrepreneurs, what do I mean by that?


Michael:
              And who are you actually targeting?


Kathryn:
               Who am I actually targeting? Are you targeting people who want to start companies but haven't, who have good ideas but haven't yet implemented them? Am I targeting people who have started companies? Am I targeting serial people who've started multiple companies? So there's varieties, even within that, of what it even means to be targeting entrepreneurs as a target audience.


Michael:
              Yeah. And one of the things I've discovered, that we've wrestled with a little bit, is that people who are in business and they're over 50, a lot of them, especially over 60, we still have a fair amount of people running businesses that control the checkbook. You know, they control the decisions. They're in the C-Suite. Not many of them actually would ever define themselves as an entrepreneur.


Kathryn:
               No. They'd say I'm a business owner.


Michael:
              I'm a business owner, or I'm a businessman, or I'm a businesswoman, I'm a business person, or I'm a business leader. There's all these different ways of looking at it. And when you're talking about Facebook ads or when you're talking about just identifying, trying to target your market, or anything like that, these are all important. And the phenomenon of the entrepreneur in America has been elevated to hero status, really in so many ways. Where you have people who run businesses for the long haul, employ people to take care of people, achieve a goal, take care of their customers. And they're like, "Yeah, those are just normal business people." But they're caught in the grind. They're caught in the, you know.


Kathryn:
               Poor little employees. I love employees. Employees are good.


Michael:
              Well, and we're talking about the business owners too. Like they're stuck. They're just a cog in the machine. So I kind of think this is interesting. It's an interesting word. There's really no resolution to this conversation, to some extent. It's just more of a forethought. How are we using this word, what does it really mean, what is the outcome of it, and thinking about it as you're having conversations with people?


Kathryn:
               Yeah. And don't make the assumption that all entrepreneurs are created equal.


Michael:
              It's like, I can hear the music playing in the background. Maybe I should stand up straight. Not all entrepreneurs are created equal.


Kathryn:
               I'm an entrepreneur, but I don't look like you.


Michael:
              All right. Well, thank you for joining us. That's probably enough for all of you. If you want to hear more of this absurdity, please check us out on Apple Podcast or any of the other podcast platforms. Hit subscribe, tell some friends. We would really love it. And join us again on another episode, where we actually may talk about something that you find more relevant. If you liked today, we'll try and give you some of that too. Thanks a lot. I'm Michael Redman.


Kathryn:
               I'm Kathryn Redman.


Michael:
              And this is the HaBO Village podcast. Take care.


Kathryn:
               Bye-bye.