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December 11, 2009

Name Calling: You Say Potato; I Say Entrepreneur

(image courtesy of pretty little studio)

We built our business to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs. Our content and programs focuses on helping these women learn the business of running a business and how to think like entrepreneurs.

But we face a consistently big challenge in doing this. “Entrepreneur” is not how many independently-employed women see, label, or refer to themselves.

What do they call themselves instead? Self-employed, freelancer, consultant, designer, practitioner, writer, coach…you get the idea.

It’s not that these other labels are untrue; they just don’t tell the full picture.
If you have chosen to go out on your own and you work for yourself and have strategic control over your venture then you are an ENTREPRENEUR. (Congrats, by the way…)

And it’s not just that these other titles sell you short, they misrepresent the job of the entrepreneur to the entrepreneur.

If you are an entrepreneur but continue to think of yourself “just as a consultant”, you may:

* neglect to focus on all the really critical strategic elements of entrepreneurship

* fail to learn from other businesses outside of your industry that use other labels to describe their work

* miss opportunities to engage with other entrepreneurs and business owners and learn great business building skills, techniques, and technologies

* miss out on innovative business trends and ideas that will keep you current and continue to reshape your business as time progresses

I recognize that it is not always the easiest label to accept! Especially when you have just gotten started, especially when you are small, especially when you feel so different from the models of entrepreneurship that are frequently cited in business publications. It is easy to feel like a fraud or to suffer from the business owner’s imposter complex.

But it is important! Not just for the health and well-being of your own venture but also for the rest of women entrepreneurs. The more we hide behind these other labels and neglect to also call ourselves entrepreneurs, the more invisible we are as a group and the less we are able to learn from each other. The more invisible and fragmented we are, the more we have to reinvent the wheel and the harder it is for us to attain the success we desire.

Tell us about your relationship with the word entrepreneur. Do you use it? Since when or why not?


Anonymous said...

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Mark said...

I haven't seen this argument made before -- nice job! I think for the reasons you mentioned it's important to make this distinction, especially as women business owners (or all owners) reassess their core competencies heading into a new year.

The nonprofit I work for runs an annual top small company workplaces competition, and I would say based on applications that have come in from companies around the country that the women-owned business owners that have participated definitely think of themselves as entrepreneurs, even if they have only a few people that they employ or it's just themselves. And I agree with you that fully embracing the entrepreneur label has helped them mentally go to a place where they can become more connected to like-minded communities.

In Good Company WorkPlaces said...

Thanks Mark, for your comment. I am glad that you have witnessed entrepreneur empowerment first hand. What you call yourself really can make a difference.

What organization do you work for? Any applicants stand out? We are always looking for interesting and inspiring speakers @ IGC.

Happy New Year!

Kelly Hayes said...

Good post. This is an important distinction and I run into people almost weekly who refer to themselves as a "consultant" when indeed they are entrepreneurs. It's an important mind set step to take that true entrepreneurs seem to embrace easily. Those who hesitate may need some coaching. Personally I think it's important to operate with a business name, and the proper business formation as early as possible as it helps create a level of professionalism and confidence that is needed for growth.

In Good Company WorkPlaces said...

good points, Kelly! Considering yourself a professional from the get go is key, and a business identity is certainly an important piece of that.

keep commenting! I like your perspective.