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ARCHIVED  December 1, 1996

What makes an entrepreneur?

America may be a nation of entrepreneurs, but defining what makes a good entrepreneur is harder than it might seem.Webster’s Dictionary says an entrepreneur is one who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.
Clearly, being an entrepreneur is more than just having a good idea or inventing a better widget; successful entrepreneurs must wear a number of hats to keep their ventures thriving, according to professionals who work with entrepreneurs daily.
“An entrepreneur is typically thought of as someone who goes out and forges new territory, dares go where no one has gone before, a gutsy person with a burning desire to make it happen,´ said Diane Wolverton, state director of the Wyoming Small Business Development Centers.
“It goes back to that French word – entrepreneur means risk taker, and that’s one of the things that I see – that ability or that willingness to take and accept the risk,´ said Jim Lamprecht, director of the Enterprise Center at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne and head of the Business Assistance Center, a private consulting service.
The Small Business Development Centers have a list of traits often shared by those who are successful: characteristics such as burning desire, initiative, perseverance, responsibility, persuasiveness, self-confidence and market awareness.
Lamprecht adds words such as “vision” and “tenacity” in describing successful entrepreneurs. “It’s the ability to see a need for a service or product and fulfill that need along with the entrepreneurial spirit, the willingness to take that risk.”
Risks include uncertainty of steady income and risk of losing the family home, car or other collateral. There is no guarantee of success but a guarantee of long hours. Lamprecht notes that more than 75 percent of small-business owners report working more than 50 hours a week; 25 percent work more than 70 hours a week.
Offsetting those risks are significant opportunities, Lamprecht said. “The opportunity to gain control over your destiny, the opportunity to make a difference, the opportunity to reach your full potential and reap unlimited profits, the opportunity to contribute to society and be recognized and the opportunity to do what you enjoy doing.”
But both Wolverton and Lamprecht agree that what makes a good entrepreneur is the ability to go beyond an initial idea and initial risk and carry that idea into a successful business.
Larry Atwell, president of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, tells the story of a man he encountered while teaching one of Wyoming’s new NxLevel classes for would-be entrepreneurs. The man was going to fabricate custom parts for snowmobiles because he could make the part for less than half what it cost in a snowmobile shop.
“I asked him whether he had factored in paying himself for his labor, and how he was going to get his product to market and whether he was going to pay a marketing person their share and so on,” Atwell said.
Wolverton said it’s common for would-be entrepreneurs, especially inventors, to concentrate on the technical aspects of product development and less on the equally important categories of marketing and business.
“A lot of the time, inventors will get clear down all the steps of having a working product, even the ability to mass produce it,” she explained. “But they don’t go as far on the marketing or business side. Is there a need for it? Is anybody going to buy it? Is there a customer base? Is it going to make money? Do I have a banker, a lawyer?
“You need to go across all three of those areas to be successful,” she added. “You need to be a well-rounded entrepreneur.”
“People in business wear different hats during different stages of the development of their business,” she explained. “The entrepreneurial hat comes on first and then the manager’s hat. The management skill is different, but you really need both, because at some point you’re going to be pioneering new areas, because if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.”
At the Small Business Development Centers, they use a wheel outline to help would-be entrepreneurs rate themselves on a variety of business skills: sales techniques, market research, product development, strategic planning, financial analysis, government regulations, resources and human-resources management.
“We have them rate their strongest points toward the outside of the wheel, the weakest toward the middle and then connect the dots and imagine the wheel rolling down the road,” Wolverton explained. “If it’s pretty bumpy, they need work to improve.”
Wolverton and Lamprecht emphasize that a successful entrepreneur need not be personally skilled in all areas, just understand it is important to have somebody who is.
“One of the key traits is for the person to recognize they can’t do it all, they’re going to have to delegate,” Lamprecht said. “If I see some of the failures in small businesses, it’s the unwillingness or inability to delegate. I think some small-business people think they’re an expert in all areas when they’re not. They may be an excellent manufacturer but not a marketing person.”
Wolverton also said it’s not uncommon to find entrepreneurs who are better at starting businesses than running them. Often, they sell out and start new endeavors.
Lamprecht and Wolverton also agree that it’s important for entrepreneurs to truly like what they are doing, if for no other reason than the time they will be investing.
“We always tell them it’s going to be a lot of work, so it better be something you like,” Wolverton said.
Both Lamprecht and Wolverton are heavily into helping would-be entrepreneurs know what it will take to succeed – and helping show them the price it may cost.

America may be a nation of entrepreneurs, but defining what makes a good entrepreneur is harder than it might seem.Webster’s Dictionary says an entrepreneur is one who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.
Clearly, being an entrepreneur is more than just having a good idea or inventing a better widget; successful entrepreneurs must wear a number of hats to keep their ventures thriving, according to professionals who work with entrepreneurs daily.
“An entrepreneur is typically thought of as someone who goes out and forges new territory, dares go where no one has gone before,…

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