We often use the terms businessman and entrepreneur interchangeably. I have been referred to sometimes as a businessman and at other times an entrepreneur. So, what is the difference between a businessman and an entrepreneur?
An article written by Stan Peake for Entrepreneur magazine makes a simple distinction: “business owner” is a job title and “entrepreneur” is a mindset. And it makes sense.
He argues that a person might decide to start a business for various reasons: “I saw a great opportunity” or “I want to be my own boss” or in some cases, “I have to keep the family business going.”
But an entrepreneur is someone who starts an enterprise because “I saw a better way of doing things,” or “I saw a need of the community,” or “I wanted to make an impact or legacy.” Or as Albert Einstein once put it, “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.”
“True entrepreneurs,” Peake’s article continues, “question the status quo and envision a world where common industry or customer pain points no longer exist.”
I agree. But I think it is important not to dichotomize but rather view the two terms as part of a continuum. While the distinction is valid, one can make the case that for some people, it is possible to make the transformation from one to the other.
For instance, many people start out establishing businesses because they do not like the idea of being an employee forever. I have spoken to a lot of new entrepreneurs and they have told me that after years of working for a company, they decided to leave their jobs and start their own business. This was the same decision I made in 1975 when I left my work, borrowed P10,000, and started my own business.
It is a life-changing decision. On one hand, an employment provides you with stability and a bit of certainty in that you will get paid monthly, while starting a business on your own is risky and does not offer a guarantee of success. On the other hand, would you rather stay an employee and look forward to incremental increase in your salary or pursue an endeavor that would give you bigger rewards, financially and personally?
And many of the business decisions made are based on what the industry or community needs. “I think I’ll set up a bakery since there is no bakery in my community,” or, “Maybe I will start a school bus service so I can help out the parents and the kids in my village.”
In my case, I did not want to just build houses. I saw an opportunity to help Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) fulfill their dreams of buying their own homes using the money they earned with their blood, sweat, and tears. I saw that gap and I decided to build my business around that goal.
This is why the notion that businessmen are bloodsucking, self-interested people is downright wrong. Businesses are set up in response to what the community needs. In most cases, business start-ups are designed to solve problems that people encounter in their daily lives.
Look at Grab, Uber, Air BnB, or, look at the many small entrepreneurial efforts on Instagram selling flowers, cakes, and offering badly needed services to other people. Business, and entrepreneurship, is all about people helping people.
This brings me to an important point. An entrepreneur is someone who is doing what makes him happy. This is an important point because I know some people who suffer in silence in the jobs they are trapped in right now. They don’t like their jobs. They hate their bosses. But they stay because it pays.
Money is important but not as important as living a life that is happy and fulfilled. Do something that excites you. Set up something that will help people and in the process nourish the humanity in you.
I believe that, ultimately, this is what makes an entrepreneur – someone who has found his calling in providing for the needs of his fellowmen. Being an entrepreneur is indeed a vocation.