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What is Entrepreneurship?

Many definitions of entrepreneurship can be found in the literature describing business processes. The earliest definition of entrepreneurship, dating from the eighteenth century, used it as an economic term describing the process of bearing the risk of buying at certain prices and selling at uncertain prices. Other, later commentators broadened the definition to include the concept of bringing together the factors of production. This definition led others to question whether there was any unique entrepreneurial function or whether it was simply a form of management. Early this century, the concept of innovation was added to the definition of entrepreneur-ship. This innovation could be process innovation, market innovation, product innovation, factor innovation, and even organisational innovation. Later definitions described entrepreneurship as involving the creation of new enterprises and that the entrepreneur is the founder. Considerable effort has also gone into trying to understand the psychological and sociological wellsprings of entrepreneurship. These studies have noted some common characteristics among entrepreneurs with respect to need for achievement, perceived locus of control, orientation toward intuitive rather than sensate thinking, and risk-taking propensity. In addition, many have commented upon the common, but not universal, thread of childhood deprivation, minority group membership and early adolescent economic experiences as ty-pifying the entrepreneur. At first glance then, we may have the beginnings of a definition of entrepreneurship. However, detailed study of both the literature and actual examples of entrepreneurship tend to make a definition more difficult, if not impossible. Consider, for example, the degree to which entrepreneurship is synonymous with 'bearing risk', 'innovation', or even founding a com-pany. Each of the terms described above focuses upon some aspect of some entrepreneurs, but if one has to be the founder to be an entrepreneur, then neither Thomas Watson of IBM nor Rey Kroc of McDonald's will qualify; yet few would seriously argue that these individuals were not entrepreneurs. Although risk bearing is an important element of entrepreneurial behaviour, many entrepreneurs have succeeded by avoiding risk where possible and seeking others to bear the risk. As one extremely successful entre-preneur has said; 'My idea of risk and reward is for me to get the reward and others to take the risks'. Creativity is often not a prerequisite for entrepreneurship either. Many successful entrepreneurs have been good at copying others and they qualify as innovators and creators only by stretching the definition beyond elastic limits. There are similarly many questions about what the psychological and social traits of entrepreneurs are. The same traits shared by two individuals can often lead to vast different results: successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs can share the characteristics commonly identified. As well, the studies of the life paths of entrepreneurs often show decreasing 'entrepreneurship' following success, which tends to disprove the centrality of character or personality traits as a sufficient basis for defining entrepreneurship. So, we are left with a range of factors and behaviours which identify entrepreneurship in some individuals. All of the above tends to reinforce the view that it is difficult, if not impossible to define what an entrepreneur is, and that the word itself can be best used in the past tense to describe a successful business person.

Measuring Entrepreneurship

Despite the above, there is remains a powerful impulse, particularly amongst enterprise development practitioners, to measure entrepreneurship in some way. These measurement attempts can range from simple checklists through to complex and detailed computer programmes. This need for a definition and measure of entrepreneurship is because, however defined, the entrepreneur is the key to the successful launch of any business. He or she is the person who perceives the market opportunity and then has the motivation, drive and ability to mobilise resources to meet it. The major characteristics of entrepreneurs that have been listed by many commentators include the following.
• Self confident and multi-skilled. The person who can 'make the prod-uct, market it and count the money, but above all they have the confidence that lets them move comfortably through unchartered waters'.
• Confident in the face of difficulties and discouraging circumstances.
• Innovative skills. Not an 'inventor' in the traditional sense but one who is able to carve out a new niche in the market place, often invisible to others.
• Results-orientated. To make be successful requires the drive that only comes from setting goals and targets and getting pleasure from achieving them.
• A risk-taker. To succeed means taking measured risks. Often the successful entrepreneur exhibits an incremental approach to risk taking, at each stage exposing him/herself to only a limited, measured amount of personal risk and moving from one stage to another as each decision is proved.
• Total commitment. Hard work, energy and single-mindedness are essential elements in the entrepreneurial profile.

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