When does an entrepreneur become an entrepreneur?

by Coach Davender on November 4, 2014

I recently tweeted this “thot”, which generated some debate on Facebook and Twitter. Some people agreed, others chastised me: “I thought you were above this snobbery, Davender”

Why the pushback? I believe this issue goes to the core of self-identity.

Let’s face it, entrepreneurship is the new black. It’s hot, it’s trendy, it’s what people want to be and who politicians want to be seen with. We want to be the winner, the brilliant innovator who strikes it rich while changing the world. We worship Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, the Sharks of Shark Tank and the Dragons of Dragons’ Den.

Why has entrepreneurship become the new religion? Maybe because it speaks to the libertarian/capitalist mindset promoted by the stunning financial successes of Silicon Valley. It’s about freedom and wealth with a touch of rebel.

Which is why a lot of people want to be seen by their peers as being entrepreneurs.

But when do you deserve to be called an entrepreneur?

  • Is it when you sign up for a MLM and buy your distributor pack?
  • Is it when you open a file on your computer and call it “Business Plan” (even though all you have written is the title?)
  • Is it when you buy the domain name, or print the business cards?
  • Is it when you attend your first Chamber of Commerce meeting or networking mixer?

Are you an entrepreneur if you’re self-employed? An artist? A consultant? An independent sub-contractor? Are you an entrepreneur if you’re still developing your product or still training to deliver your service? Are you an entrepreneur if you’re serving “practice client” pro-bono?

Pinpointing the moment when entrepreneurship starts is like trying to determine the moment a fetus becomes a human. You can point to any stage of the process and argue you’re right.

I posit that the pivot moment is when you make your first sale. And specifically, when you get paid for your first sale. Because the act of billing and being paid is what separates the entrepreneur from the salaried, who are just paid. The experience of receiving payment for an invoice which represents your hard work, and especially your ability to create a bridge of trust strong enough to make the sale, is a context shift which changes oneself profoundly.

I remember when I issued my first invoice. I spent at least a day on tweaking the Excel spreadsheet to make sure it was just right. Do I put my logo in the top left, or the top right? How many digits should the invoice number have? I can’t really start at 0001, it will make me seem like a newbie.

Then when I got paid, by check (because it was 1994), seeing my company name written in the “Pay to the order of” field gave me an additional boost of pride. I was real, I had arrived. (I think I made a photocopy of that first check, but I don’t know where I put it.)

All the work I had done before that day was important. But not the same. Because I was doing it for myself. When the contract was signed and I was building something for someone else who valued what I made, I felt different, more confident, more empowered. Instead of getting ready to do something for a generic “client”, I was now delivering to a person with a name and a face and a need they wanted fulfilled.

I struggled a lot in my first business because I sucked at sales. It wasn’t until I broke through that barrier by plunging head-first into Multi-Level-Marketing (with a certain level of success, may I add), that I understood the power of sales. Selling is indeed the highest level of leadership.

I stand by my declaration: the first sale is when you become an entrepreneur. Anything before that, you’re a “wantrepreneur”. Which is an important step, because the pivot from employee to entrepreneur rarely happens in one smooth transition.


Hacking Productivity (Startup Canada Webinar)

by Coach Davender on October 26, 2014

I recently enjoyed participating in a webinar hosted by Intuit Canada and Startup Canada, on the topic of Hacking Productivity.

The main points I wanted to get across were:

1. Don’t keep it all in your head.

My life planning is built around two main apps:

Evernote, where I dump all my thoughts, ideas and notes, and

- Omnifocus, where I keep track of all my to-dos and the things I want to get done.

I also use IFTTT rules to connect my e-mail to Evernote and Omnifocus. The act of “starring” a message in GMail triggers notes in both tools, to ensure that I respond appropriately.

All smartphone and laptop platforms have effective apps (Microsoft One Note, iCloud Reminders, etc) that can help you capture your thoughts as they come to you.

2. It doesn’t have to perfect, it just has to get done.

Don’t get caught up in a perfectionist loop. People will appreciate you more when you produce.

That doesn’t mean don’t do your best. It means do your best within the time and resource budget you give yourself, then move onto the next.

Here is the recording of the webinar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDY0wP7sn-8)


For more information:

Article on the Intuit Canada blog:

Original event description (September 29, 2014)



Launching a startup is the in-thing these days. Like the #IceBucketChallenge, in a way. And that’s not good.

The virally popular #IceBucketChallenge is basically about YouTubing yourself getting a bucket of ice water dumped on your head, then challenging a couple of your buds to do the same. Somewhere there’s a charity donation to ALF, or EMP, or whatever.

I doubt that all those people who go through elaborate setups to get more views, will spend at least the same amount of time understanding the cause #IBC is supposed to help (ABC? AFL?). Even fewer have researched the charity to which they are giving their hard earned money (AMC?).

And, if the goal of the #IceBucketChallenge is to give to the cause, why is it that if you get a bucket of ice water dumped on your head you pay only 10% of what you would pay if you dediced not to do it?

#IceBucketChallenge, for all its good intentions, is not charity. It is a fundraising stunt. Granted, it appears to be successful in terms of virality and in terms of revenues for the foundation. But in terms of encouraging people to be charitable, it fails on so many levels. It is “pretend charity”.

And, unfortunately, that’s how I feel about most startups out there.

Most startups I come across are marketplaces or e-commerce sites, bolted together with pre-made modules, APIs and frameworks. There is very little innovation, be it technological, business or other.

My local newspaper breathlessly reports on the latest startups. Look for them about six months later, and most of the projects have been abandoned.

Startups are not about the launch. The hard part of entrepreneurship, which also makes it real, is about earning the trust and commitment of paying customers. This is dirty, sweaty, unglorious work. If you think Google Adwords and banner ads and growth hacks will get you loads of customers while you’re slurping a frappucino by your laptop, you’re missing the point.

A real entrepreneur goes out and gets face-to-face with the market, to understand their needs and figure out what will trigger them to choose what you’re offering. You will probably be in “soft launch” for a year or two building your product or service, figuring your problem-solution fit and product-market fit, and before you start seeing traction. Then you will spend another three years or more building the business to the point where it makes money for you, your team and your investors.

Launching a web site makes you just as much an entrepreneur as dumping a bucket of ice water on your head makes you a philanthropist. The real deal takes time, effort, commitment, and money.

Don’t get sucked into doing the popular thing because it makes for good YouTube or press coverage. Do it because you truly believe in it.

(Image via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/oNq8Zy Used under Creative Commons licence)


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Please don’t take it personally.

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The problem with most startup entrepreneurs is that they run with the first idea they get. And the idea, more often than not, is too small or not defined in a way as to effectively change the future in the way they want.

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People are not interested in what you do – they are more interested in what you can do for them.

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Thot: The sooner you start, the sooner you win

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Thot: Champions know it takes many years of disciplined action to achieve overnight success. The sooner you start, the sooner you win.

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