OF TREES AND FOREST
By FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT
I have been asked this question numerous times — how does one become a successful entrepreneur? It’s a simple but difficult question to answer. In fact, the first question should be, what is an entrepreneur?
A cursory look at the various definitions on the Internet explains the difficulty of becoming an entrepreneur. For instance, investopedia.com defines an entrepreneur as an “individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards.”
Merriam-Webster defines an entrepreneur as “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise. Dictionary.com refers to an entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”
I have highlighted what is common among the definitions — risk. Also common among the definition is the essential element of entrepreneurship: taking risks.
Deciding to become an entrepreneur is certainly more risky that getting a job. If you are an employee of a company, it’s not your money that is invested, it’s not your money that will disappear if the enterprise fails. Of course, as an employee, you make your investments too (time, talent, effort) for which you are paid. But nothing compares to the risk taken by the entrepreneur in initiating the enterprise.
By the way, another important distinction between an entrepreneur and an employee is the fact that the latter specializes only in one or two aspect of the business (sales or marketing) but an entrepreneur needs to understand the whole gamut of running a business.
The definitions seem discouraging. Why would you become an entrepreneur and assume all the risks?
Here lies the unique quality of an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is someone willing to take that risk, the road less traveled. While getting a job in a company is the route taken by most people (sadly, especially in the Philippines), entrepreneurs refuse to take the path of least resistance.
Entrepreneurs are people who understand the needs of society and endeavor to provide those needs. Setting up a business is never, should never, be about money. Some people would ask me, “Sir, paano ba yumaman?”
My honest, straightforward reply is this: It was never my goal to get rich. Of course, I wanted to earn money for survival so I can help my family get a comfortable life but money was never the overarching reason why I went into business.
The problem is that if your goal is to get more money you probably won’t get rich. You’ll never get to a high level of wealth because you’ll be afraid to let go of money, you’ll be afraid to take risks, you’ll be afraid to lose. To be truly an entrepreneur, you have to have a motivation bigger than just making money.
Some people make it their mission in life to reach the top and they’ll do anything to climb to the top. Look, I am not saying that people should not aim high. What I am saying is aiming high to get money is not enough.
I have experienced both extremes in life. I have lived an impoverished life when I was young. I have also experienced success as an entrepreneur and I can tell you that the most expensive things aren’t necessarily the most beautiful. The best food isn’t always the most expensive, and vice-versa.
But for an entrepreneur, what could be a higher goal than getting rich? To provide a need—a product, a service—for the people to the best of your ability. It’s about understanding what society needs and imagining the possibilities the future can bring.