Economies are powered by innovation. Much of that innovation derives from forward-thinking individuals who possess the drive, skills, and background to turn a business vision into reality. The importance of entrepreneurs extends beyond the effect those individuals have on their own companies, however. They impact their broader communities, and, in some cases, even the world.
Entrepreneurs have played a pivotal role in the growth of the U.S. economy since the 19th century. They spur industry transformations, create entirely new markets, and help to build resilient communities. Investopedia describes four ways entrepreneurs benefit society:
A smiling entrepreneur stands in an office hall
Economic growth: The success of the products and services created and sold by entrepreneurs cascades to other businesses and markets.
Wealth generation: Entrepreneurs frequently target new markets and tap audiences outside the focus of established firms. This creates new sources of revenue and profits.
Social change: The innovative goods and services entrepreneurs offer reduce dependence on outdated processes and technologies. One example is the way smartphones have affected how businesses communicate with customers, employees, and partners.
Community development: Entrepreneurs foster a sense of community among people with common goals and interests, whether in a single neighborhood or across continents. Their products and services contribute to the communities’ social and economic well-being.
The companies that entrepreneurs found tend to mirror their founders’ personalities. Entrepreneurs come from every economic and social background. To prepare for the challenges of translating innovation into rewarding business ventures, entrepreneurs rely on the training and experience they receive from programs such as the Master of Arts in Management and Leadership degree.
Successful entrepreneurs make their dreams and the dreams of others come true. They are able to match their personality, skills, and creativity with customer needs and market opportunities. This guide explains the importance of entrepreneurship, presents the various types and styles of entrepreneurship, and describes the skills that are most essential for reaching your entrepreneurial goals.
Types of Entrepreneurship
Most people think of an entrepreneur as someone with dreams of becoming a titan of industry. While many would-be entrepreneurs have lofty goals, most hope only to create a successful business, whether that success spans the globe or reaches no farther than their local community. Types of entrepreneurship range from hometown storefront businesses to technological innovations that can change the world.
These snapshot profiles of various entrepreneur types demonstrate the range of opportunities available to people who dream of starting their own business.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that small businesses generate 44% of all business activity in the country. Small-business entrepreneurs differ from other small-business owners in their company’s legal status: Entrepreneurs generally incorporate their businesses, while owners operate as sole proprietors, partnerships, or other nonincorporated entities.
Small-business entrepreneurs take greater risks than the typical small-business owner, and they tend to rely on a broader set of skills that encompass high-level thinking, analytical reasoning, and complex interpersonal communication.
The roles of investors and entrepreneurs are typically seen as complementary but distinct: Entrepreneurs seek investors to bankroll their new companies. However, some entrepreneurs focus solely on providing financial backing to new business entities. Investor entrepreneurs may start their careers in one of the two roles and segue into a hybrid of both to tap the strengths of each.
For example, entrepreneurs may feel the need to continually tweak their operations, which can prevent business processes from being firmly established. By taking an investor role and purchasing an ownership share in a business, entrepreneurs are likely to address business opportunities more strategically to capitalize on short-term performance as well as long-term goals.
As new technologies permeate industries of all types, it could be said that all entrepreneurs are technology entrepreneurs in some regard. However, over the past 40 years the image of technology entrepreneurs has been dominated by billionaires such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg. What distinguishes this type of entrepreneur is their practical application of scientific innovations to solve business problems.
Technology entrepreneurs are characterized by their passion and unshakeable belief in the inherent value of the products or services they create. Becoming a tech entrepreneur typically entails working long hours and making financial sacrifices in the short term for the prospects of long-term gain. Tech entrepreneurs must also possess the ability to sell their ideas, persevere through hard times, and make others feel as enthusiastic about their ideas as they do.
Internal entrepreneurs, or “intrapreneurs,” apply the principles of entrepreneurship to projects within an existing company or organization. One important distinction between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs is the latter’s lack of personal investment, which reduces the impact of potential failure on any individual.
Intrapreneurs tend to be self-motivated, proactive, and innovative employees who create an entrepreneurial spirit within their team. When companies give employees the freedom to experiment and grow within an organization, they can benefit from the success of their employees’ internal projects. However, firms that fail to personally recognize the work of intrapreneurs risk seeing them leave to become true independent entrepreneurs.
Internet-based businesses offer many advantages to entrepreneurs, including low startup costs and the ability to establish an online presence quickly to take advantage of the fast pace of changing markets. However, the low barrier to entry can be a dangerous illusion for online entrepreneurs who fail to realize the hard work and perseverance required to achieve their business goals.
Online enterprises require the same time and effort commitment as other forms of entrepreneurship, and they are subject to their own challenges, many related to technology. For example, an online business will likely rely on partnerships with many different service providers, an outage at any of which could knock the business offline.
Just as no two companies are identical, each entrepreneurial endeavor is as unique as the person behind it. Entrepreneurship styles are as varied as the ideas that spur entrepreneurs to action. One key for entrepreneurial success is to create a company whose strengths match the prominent characteristics of its founder.
Matching Entrepreneurship Approach to Personality
An entrepreneur’s personality, background, and experience influence their approach to starting a business. These are among the most common entrepreneurship styles:
Innovators have the potential to transform entire industries with novel ideas. Inventor Thomas Edison was the prototype for the modern innovative entrepreneur. These entrepreneurs possess extensive knowledge of their industry, including its customers’ needs. They also know how to develop and market their innovative products.
Managers are often considered the antithesis of entrepreneurs, but management skills are paramount in bringing a great idea to fruition as a commercial product or service. Manager entrepreneurs understand the importance of choosing and nurturing a good team of workers, and ensuring that they have the tools and resources to succeed.
Opportunists identify an important business or technical problem, devise a winning solution to the problem, and plot a course to bring that solution to market in the form of a commercial product. Opportunity entrepreneurs tend to have a business background rather than a technical one, so they may focus too much on short-term goals and lose sight of the larger picture.
Revolutionaries are in many ways the antithesis of manager and opportunity entrepreneurs because they typically have technical backgrounds and may show disdain for established business practices. While revolutionary entrepreneurs such as Apple founder Steve Jobs leave a legacy that is both broad and deep, they often need the help of nontechnical business people to realize their world-changing vision.
Entrepreneurs Whose Businesses Match Their Personalities
Just as Steve Jobs’ larger-than-life personality was the perfect fit for his dream of making computers “for the rest of us,” as Apple’s marketing slogan proclaimed, other important entrepreneurs succeed by applying their unique, inimitable style to the task of devising brand-new solutions to real-world problems.
John D. Rockefeller was “the richest man in history,” according to Investopedia, after founding Standard Oil in the late 19th century. Rockefeller’s fortune was due in large part to his focus on running the company as efficiently as possible by creating vertical and horizontal integrations for its operations. However, Rockefeller’s ruthless quest for efficiency bordered on unethical business practices. The social backlash to the Standard Oil monopoly ultimately led to the company’s breakup.
Walt Disney is famous as a pioneering animator and entertainment mogul, but his greatest innovation may have been in recognizing the potential of merchandising his creations in the form of toys, clothing, and other items. The Disney Company remains one of the largest and most successful entertainment enterprises in the world.
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon out of a garage in Seattle in the 1990s. Less than 25 years later, the company is one of the most valuable in the world, and Bezos is a billionaire many times over. Since his school days, Bezos has had a vision that extends beyond our planet, but he also has a practical side that realized the potential of the internet long before the rest of the world did. As Amazon achieved record-breaking growth early this century, Bezos simultaneously invested in a variety of endeavors outside online retail, including the commercial space project Blue Origin.
Entrepreneurs Arise from Diverse Backgrounds
Any field can serve as a springboard for a successful new business enterprise. Entrepreneurs arise from a range of educational, technical, and business experiences that include management, technology, sales and marketing, and scientific research. In addition to an abiding passion to see their innovations realized, entrepreneurs share certain characteristics:
They are independent thinkers.
They are optimistic and confident about their chances for success.
They are creative problem solvers.
They are tenacious, visionary, and focused.
They are more likely to act than to wait, and they attack challenges rather than avoid them.
Growing a business requires a diverse set of skills, but the one trait that ties them all together is leadership. Entrepreneurs transform an idea into a product or service that has value to customers. Each step in the process from creating the business plan to achieving profitability calls for a range of organizational and interpersonal skills, all of which depend on leadership.
Important entrepreneurship skills run the gamut from understanding the risks versus rewards of the business venture, to having a plan in place for responding as circumstances change. These are the capabilities that entrepreneurs need to make their businesses thrive:
Leadership: Entrepreneurs demonstrate their zeal for the enterprise in all of their interactions with investors, employees, and outside parties. They are confident in themselves and in the business, and they are decisive yet adaptable. They listen to and respect the opinions of others, and are always taking advantage of opportunities to study and learn.
Interpersonal communication: Entrepreneurs understand that the lines of communication in an organization must run both ways. Communication is particularly important to entrepreneurs because it makes all their other skills more effective. Communication skills are used to close sales, boost employee morale, resolve conflicts, and negotiate contracts.
Organizational behavior: Technology is a vital part of any new business venture, but the ability to manage people will ultimately determine a company’s success. People management takes many forms, but the key is to match the organizational approach with the characteristics of the business and its employees.
Business strategy: The importance of having a clear business focus and being optimistic and driven to achieve the company’s goals is balanced by the need to be adaptable and acknowledge when industries, markets, and customer preferences change. Entrepreneurs are decisive and passionate, but they are also ready and willing to make changes when necessary to keep the company on a path forward.
Collaboration and project management: Entrepreneurs understand the importance of being a good team member as well as serving as a team leader. They establish relationships with managers, investors, partners, and stakeholders as peers who all have important roles to play rather than as a hierarchy.
Benefits of Entrepreneurship
The benefits of entrepreneurship extend beyond the businesses they establish. Entrepreneurs improve the lives of individuals and communities, as well as the overall economy. Entrepreneurs have been instrumental in spurring social change and improving the way people live and work. They help raise the standard of living for everyone by creating jobs and making products safer, less expensive, and more functional.
Entrepreneurs’ rewards for taking on the risks entailed in transforming an idea into a business include the earnings their investment generates, as well as the ability to set their own schedule. However, entrepreneurs also gain the satisfaction of seeing their idea transformed into a thriving enterprise, and of knowing their skills and leadership helped to make it happen.
Communities reap the benefit of entrepreneurship because businesses help to foster innovation, promote economic development, and create jobs. A successful company is likely to expand, which generates taxes, jobs, and other benefits for the area. Thriving businesses tend to attract other ventures in the same or related fields, and they often invest in community projects and support local charities.
Entrepreneurs play an important role in growing and sustaining the U.S. economy. The technologies pioneered by entrepreneurs have created entire industries, including smartphones, wireless products, online retail, social media, and streaming entertainment.
Despite the many benefits of entrepreneurship, it has inherent risks. Lack of appropriate government oversight can result in unfair labor practices, corruption, and criminal activity. Also, new business ventures have a high rate of failure: According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cited by Fundera, 20% of small businesses fail in the first year, 50% fail within five years, and 70% fail within 10 years of opening. The benefits of entrepreneurship are realized only after much preparation, planning, and hard work.
An Education Geared to the Needs of Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs need the right foundation in business and management. A program such as Maryville University’s online Master of Arts in Management and Leadership can offer the crucial training and skills innovators need to succeed. Courses such as Interpersonal Management Skills, Enterprise Planning and Control, Leadership, and Organizational Behavior and Development prepare tomorrow’s important entrepreneurs for the challenges they will face as they pursue their career goals.
Discover more about how the Master of Arts in Management and Leadership program helps people planning a career in business gain the entrepreneurial skills they’ll need.