The E Word

Going Loopy I’ve not yet grown comfortable with the term “entrepreneur” when describing myself. It doesn’t fit. It feels like someone else’s clothes. I think of entrepreneurs and I think of Guy Kawasaki, or Jeff Bezos, or Tony Hsieh (at least in the tech space). The dictionary says an entrepreneur is “someone who organizes a business venture and assumes the risk for it.” Well, okay. That’s me.

But I’ve yet to really ever call myself that.

Starting with the October issue, I’m going to write a regular column for Entrepreneur Magazine for Amy Cosper. Even with that, I still don’t feel the title making sense. I’m just excited to write for Amy’s magazine.

I also don’t consider Human Business Works to be a “startup,” just in the same way that I didn’t consider New Marketing Labs to be a startup. They’re just companies. NML was funded by CrossTech Group, but it was more like a conversation between Stephen Saber, Nick Saber, and myself. I said what I wanted to do. They nodded. I did what I said.

Human Business Works is funded out of my pocket. I don’t feel like I’m “bootstrapping a startup.” I’m just paying for things I need to build and launch a business.

I don’t feel like an entrepreneur, and not at all like a …gasp… serial entrepreneur.

I build human businesses. I’m planning to help a whole lot of folks do something during this down economy. My goals for building business are as simple as nudging a few friends in the right direction, and as complex as redefining how new media meets the new marketplace.

Call me whatever you want, I guess. I’ll just be working on things.

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  • http://twitter.com/kentshaffer Kent Shaffer

    Luckily, feelings are misleading and aren’t what counts. Congrats on the new writing gig! “Feels” to me like a good fit with your expertise.

  • http://twitter.com/EdwardTerry Edward Terry

    I stumbled on @penelopetrunk’s blog yesterday and she defines entrepreneurship as taking joy in the process of the banter of ideas until you land on a business model. This sounds like how NML got started. It took me a long time to accept the label, and I only tend to use it with loose social connections as it provides an easier pigeon-hole for people to understand where I fit in the world. Good luck with the writing!

  • http://www.wilsonusman.com/ Wilson Usman

    okay guys, lets come up with a new term for our friend here. Hey all jokes aside it’s really great that you’re starting to write for Entrepreneur that’s awesome, congrats!!

    I was trying to come up with a term, but all I could this is you’re just CB, stick with human business builder. hahaaha

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  • http://managingemployeeperformance.com Leon Noone

    G’Day chris,
    I’ve signed up for your Human Business works Newsletter. I’ve also tried to send an email to that blog without success. Your system didn’t want to know me. Thought that you’d like to know.

    Regards

    Leon

  • Anonymous

    Labels are like cubicles–good for confining and limiting and controling, bad for growing and changing. Don’t be one of those “E” guys–or any other person’s label. Keep being a guy who works on things and sharing that attitude with the rest of us. It’s your most important contribution. I can find information lots of places–I can only find you and your passion here.

    Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Really trying to put the Fruit Loops photo together with the article content. My associations so far are not kind :-) All joking aside, labels are mostly for media people so they can understand the complex world around them, bundle that up and deliver it to readers in pre-digested chunks. You call yourself whatever you want.. or nothing.

    An interesting discussion over at http://blog.waxmarketing.com/2010/08/10/blogger-semantics/ @waxgirl33 and @WriteSourcing Tread lightly if you decide to weigh in; they’re feisty! :-)

  • http://www.bizworks360.com Mary Ann Halford

    Anthony Tjan in the Harvard Business Review Blog in June talked about the three roles of great entrepreneurs [http://bit.ly/a6FqTv] :

    1. The Architect: Big Picture Planning
    2. The Storyteller: Researching and Selling
    3. The Disciplinarian: Executing

    From all that I know about you, you play all three roles – across several businesses [which I guess makes you a "serial entrepreneur"].

    Yet, I would like to add another label to entrepreneur for you – viral entrepreneur. You are inspiring many to harness the social media landscape to build and harvest their own businesses. At the same time, you are helping existing businesses to think more entrepreneurially.

    So whatever you want to call it, keep on doing it!

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Since you have such a great people focus in all of your projects, how about humanpreneur?

  • http://www.therisetothetop.com David Siteman Garland

    Neat Chris. Congrats on the column and the launch of Human Business Works. And like the term or not, you ARE an entrepreneur. It isn’t just limited to the folks in the tech space :)

    Or use another term:

    broganpreneur
    mediapreneur
    awesomepreneur

    …whatever.

  • http://www.vmrcommunications.com Hugh Macken

    Right on. Feelings aren’t facts. That lesson hit home for me about 10 years ago when I was getting a golf lesson. I couldn’t drive the ball straight off the tee to save my life. The golf pro teacher told me to change my grip. I did and sure enough I started hitting the ball a lot straighter. But it still didn’t “feel” right. At least not at first.

    That said, I’m not a big fan of labels. I don’t like to be “defined.” Never have. I always want to be outside the box. So I think I know what you mean when you say it doesn’t feel right. On some level, it isn’t right because it does not perfectly define you. No label can. But labels are part of language and language is what we use to communicate the truth as best we can.

    And…. sometimes fiction reveals more truth than non-fiction.

    And…I need a cup of coffee. Just don’t call me a coffee addict. :)

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    typist.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Serial entrepreneur. Cereal.

    I’m here to help.

  • http://jakyastikblogs.blogspot.com Jaky Astik

    Well who cares what they call you as long as you give your best, reap out standing profits, write books that actually help people. Whatever tag goes on you, you’ll fit in that quite perfectly.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    When you say “send an email to that blog,” can you help me understand what you mean?

    And hi, Leon. Thanks for telling me. I’d like to fix it.

  • Anonymous

    LOL I get it now.. I never thought it would be too early for puns, but I was wrong! :-) Thanks for the bump back off the berm

  • Kevin

    Chris, great post. My problem with the word “entrepreneur” is you always sound like a tool when you call yourself that. Sort of like talking about yourself in the third person or something. BUT, you and many others of course fit the dictionary definition, and you of course you pass the smell test. That’s one thing about entrepreneurs, they can spot each other a mile away and have instant kinship. Although the E-word is a little awkward, I would actually encourage you and others to embrace it. We could use a lot more “E” in the world, especially in this economy. Cheers, Kevin

  • http://www.therisetothetop.com David Siteman Garland

    LOL

  • http://twitter.com/alexisgrant Alexis Grant

    Someone called me an entrepreneur recently and I thought to myself, Holy cow, I actually am!

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    I’m with you on the part about calling one’s self that. My old CTO, Bill Wessman, used to say, “Bill, Technology,” when being introduced to a big table full of important people. My old boss, [namewitheldtoprotectthatshewasatoolbag], used to say, “[namewitheldagain], Senior Assistant Vice President of Technology and Operations.”

    You know who had the power.

  • Palmer Reuther

    I got my degree in entrepreneurship and marketing but always had an issue with the entrepreneurship part of its naming convention – probably because 1) what they taught us had no real relevance to “organizing a business venture” and 2) because some classmates literally called themselves entrepreneurs a day after graduating, and to agree with Kevin, there was a definite air of toolness to the use of the word and their lack of consideration for its meaning. Congrats on the new column Chris… looking forward to it. – Palmer

  • http://www.BeyondThePedway.com Tim Jahn

    It’s just syntax. I don’t think you work in “social media” but you’ve been labeled an expert on it.

    You say tomato, I say tomato. :)

    (and in writing, there’s no difference.)

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    You’re not wrong. I don’t ever ever ever use “social media expert” (I did a few times in the way old days, but I was foolish) to describe what I do.

    I’m a business agitator. I’m a typist. I’m an educator.

  • Anonymous

    I think as a society we pull away from labels that have not moved along with the times. I do agree when I think the “E” word I think of some person struggling to get by starting a business completely from scratch with barely enough resources. I don’t think someone wealthy enough to invest in a business and get it started with out putting in their own blood sweat and tears.

  • Anonymous

    I tell people I’m a Professional Hobo. The ones that cock their heads slightly, scrunch their eyebrows and ask, I have a conversation with. The ones who don’t, don’t matter and never will :-)

  • http://twitter.com/waxgirl333 waxgirl333

    I’m kind of OCD when it comes to words, but Webster’s says the definition of entrepreneur is : “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise” from the french “entreprendre” to undertake. The word was invented in 1852. The Cultural dictionary definition says “One who starts a business or other venture that promises economic gain but that also entails risks.”

    Either one fits. Wear it proudly I say! (not the serial one though – too much like an axe murderer)

  • Megan

    I think it’s great you have the intentions you do when starting your new ventures. It’s obvious you truly love what you do! Definitely an important aspect in being an entrepreneur… even if you don’t like to call yourself one:)

  • http://nathanhangen.com/blog Nathan Hangen

    that’s what CIA operatives call themselves :)

    You don’t work for the CIA do you?

  • Bobby Burns

    As a Business Coach at E-Myth Worldwide I can most certainly identify with your, well, indentity crisis. Michael Gerber has built a career on the misconceptions around what is or is not an “entrepreneur”. I would like to say this, however, that a true entrepreneur is not in the label, but in the mind-set and the spirit: building a vision and strategically taking on the risk of doing so. Based on your bio and accomplishments I would say it’s a safe bet that you are, indeed, an “entrpreneur”, Chris – if not in name then certainly in action!

  • http://twitter.com/al_hal Alaa Halawi

    Meta-Entrepreneur would be more adequate!

  • http://twitter.com/al_hal Alaa Halawi

    ‘Entrepreneur’, ‘startup’ and other words are mere terminology used so we communicate together as humans. After words gain there maturity across the decades, the essence of their meaning is lost, misdefined, and then disputed. You Are simply following the essence of the word and not the word itself!
    It reminds me when I first got married and my wife would be addressed a comment about her ‘husband’ and i would look left and right searching for him.
    As for title I would suggest ‘Solutionist – New Media’

  • http://twitter.com/DaraBell DaraghBell

    Might be taking you for granted but I associate you as entrepeneur. I think of entrepeneur the way Branson thinks of it, as artistry. You seem artistic not entrepeneurial. Art is about empericism and trying stuff out, which I associate with you.

    Maybe NML and Human business are not start-up companies but businesses wrapped around a person, an idea. I emphasise here with serial entrepeneur. Thinking alot of what you said before of the Branson idea of branding and your right, right for you. You seem to wrap companies around ideas. I detract my words. Regardless, of the cereal entrepeneurs, just words I think Freud said “we are trapped by words” we must build and re-build.

    Agree also with Megan. Oh look Tim said the same thing about syntax. Alas there is greatness alive here!

    Dara Bell

  • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

    I was a better entrepreneur before I heard the word “entrepreneur”.

  • http://www.macncheeseproductions.com/ Saya

    Enjoy your thoughts Chris.

    This one made me think about the struggle I’ve had over the past year dealing with all the requests to “get coffee” from people, who usually want to pick my brain about self-employment and/or my fields [digital media, event planning, and helping others foster new connections]. The struggle I have is I don’t feel I have that golden nugget of wisdom that they’re looking for, the answer to “How have you made it work?” I accidentally fall into business opportunities. I don’t set out to do something with a financial goal, I embark on a project because it’ll enrich my life in some way [personal development, fun, new relationships, etc.] – fortuitously, many of the projects have enriched my bank account as well.

    Just as you have trouble calling yourself an entrepreneur, I have trouble viewing myself as someone with whom you’d want to get coffee. (In the business sense at least — socially, I’m a hoot and we’ll have a fantastic time discussing pet peeves, dating, and off the beaten path activities that keep life interesting!)

  • http://www.DesertMountainHomesOnline.com CarmenBrodeur

    I always prefer the term “self-employed” to entrepreneur. Sounds more self-sufficient. Cute cereal photo.

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    He’s a Mossad Agent :D

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    Just as you have trouble calling yourself an entrepreneur, I have trouble viewing myself as someone with whom you’d want to get coffee. (In the business sense at least — socially, I’m a hoot and we’ll have a fantastic time discussing pet peeves, dating, and off the beaten path activities that keep life interesting!)

  • http://www.louisvuitton4love.com/ louis vuitton

    Just as you have trouble calling yourself an entrepreneur, I have trouble viewing myself as someone with whom you’d want to get coffee. (In the business sense at least — socially, I’m a hoot and we’ll have a fantastic time discussing pet peeves, dating, and off the beaten path activities that keep life interesting!

  • Amy Tobin

    I saved this one until I had time to digest it, and here is my analysis: You shouldn’t CALL yourself an Entrepreneur anymore than you CALL yourself a Trust Agent. Make Sense?

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  • http://www.blackfridayplanet.com/ William Hushburn

    I haven’t got a clue, why is the picture a cereal meal and your topic is all about entrepreneur? Can you

  • http://www.blackfridayplanet.com/ William Hushburn

    I haven’t got a clue, why is the picture a cereal meal and your topic is all about entrepreneur? Can you

  • http://www.coopersbarnyard.com Frankie Cooper

    Interesting “E” word…

  • http://www.timeshareweekly.com/ Timeshare

    This is something of a buzz word in business right now.