Magazine article Management Today

Ask Bill Gates

Magazine article Management Today

Ask Bill Gates

Article excerpt

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an entrepreneur?

A: First we have to define 'entrepreneur'. The word has become almost meaningless. Somebody at XYZ Company will say, 'This is an example of how entrepreneurial XYZ is.' Or announce, 'Here's one of XYZ's great entrepreneurs - Joe!' Being an entrepreneur has come to mean little more than having innovative ideas and being willing to take risks. Fine qualities, but the term is so general now that it begs the question: 'What's the opposite of an entrepreneur? A dud?' The word entrepreneur used to mean somebody who started their own company. These classic entrepreneurs are often innovative risk-takers, but that doesn't mean that every innovative risk-taker is an entrepreneur.

While entrepreneurship is frequently glamorised, there are huge disadvantages to starting your own company. For one thing, over 90% of start-ups fail. For another, most people don't like the job once they have it. When you start a company, there's a huge range of activities you have to perform and you have to spread yourself pretty thin. This is quite a contrast to life inside a company, where a talented person can specialise in what they do well, which suits most people better. The lure of self-employment draws a lot of people into trying to be entrepreneurs who really aren't cut out for it. I've stressed the disadvantages of being a classic entrepreneur because I think they are often overlooked. There are, of course, obvious rewards to starting a company that thrives. Successful entrepreneurs are said to be some of the happiest people around and I believe it. …

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