When I studied business at university, the business school was filled with three types of student.
The first was there because their parents, friends, teachers, or society had told them they needed to go to university to get on in life. They were there for a good time, and didn’t give too much of a thought for where to go next.
The second type was studying a business degree because they saw it as a stepping stone to getting a career in a large organisation. They (mostly) studied hard and did what they needed to do to achieve their goals.
The third was a much smaller group of students who were studying business because they wanted to start their own business. University wasn’t so much about the certificate at the end, but about meeting people, networking, and finding opportunities beyond the lecture theatre.
I very much fell into the third group. I’d dabbled with different things from the time I started school, and carried out throughout my time at university. This was a time when entrepreneurs were starting to become “sexy”, and I remember hearing people compare them to the rockstars of old. Whether anyone has ever really considered it sexy or not, I’ll leave that to someone else to decide.
I wasn’t just exposed to students in my year though, through my involvement in various different groups and societies, I met several intakes into the business school. And these categorisations worked for every year group.
One thing that was common though, was the third type of student, whether it through lack of experience, egotism, or a corruption of modern life, had a tendency to show traits of wantrepreneurship.
I don’t necessarily exclude myself from this, I certainly did this to some degree as well. But others definitely talked about their “passion” a lot more than I did, while I spent more time looking at numbers.
The term wantrepreneur was coined around this time too, and it made me chuckle a lot at the time…it still does. But it’s also a useful term to know. If you’re looking to set up your own business to get some freedoms in life, then understanding what a wantrepreneur is can help you make sure you don’t become one.
What is a Wantrepreneur?
The word is literally the combination of “want” and “entrepreneur”. It means someone who wants (or even dreams) of becoming an entrepreneur, but often never actually does.
It’s a derogatory term that describes someone who wants the rewards of entrepreneurship, without having to do the work to achieve it. Someone who talks a lot, but does little.
What is the Difference Between an Entrepreneur and a Wantrepreneur?
Here’s how to spot an wantrepreneur in the wild. For the record, I don’t consider myself either of these.
1. Entrepreneurs work, while wantrepreneurs talk
I’ve alluded to this already, but wantrepreneurs spend a lot of time talking and don’t do much “doing”. Talking is necessary sometimes, you need to tell people about your product/service, but there’s little point bragging about non-existent achievements.
Entrepreneurs let their work do the talking. Wantrepreneurs just expel hot air to anyone who’ll listen.
A sure fire sign that someone is a wantrepreneur is that they spend all their time trying to get capital for their business, instead of just bootstrapping it instead. When (if) they ever get that funding, they’ll spend it all and then move on to the next investor before someone eventually pulls the plug.
2. Entrepreneurs love business, wantrepreneurs love products
Entrepreneurs love business. Not just their own business, but the concept of business. They’re excited by buying and selling, about building something, about solving problems, and about seeing their ideas come to fruition.
Wantrepreneurs might talk about their “passion” for their business, but they aren’t prepared to do all the boring stuff that goes along with it. They love their idea, but don’t love the idea of spending all night trying to meet a client deadline.
3. Entrepreneurs focus on their business, wantrepreneurs focus on their own image
Entrepreneurs have a single focus: the success of their business. It doesn’t matter to them how they succeed (within reason), it just matters that they do. They aren’t in it for the glory, they’re in it for the satisfaction (and the rewards that go with it).
A wantrepreneur’s top priority is themself. Their image is more important than the success of the business. Being seen as a “CEO” and all they think that entails is their primary objective. The fact that they’re CEO of nothing doesn’t seem to have crossed their mind.
4. Entrepreneurs fix, wantrepreneurs complain
If they hit a problem, an issue or a setback, entrepreneurs roll up their sleeves and set to work fixing whatever needs fixing. They understand that they are the ones in charge and therefore they are responsible for their own destiny.
Wantrepreneurs complain, it’s always someone else’s fault. They didn’t make a sale because the customer didn’t know what they were doing. They’ve missed a launch deadline because the supplier messed up. They haven’t hit their sales projections because the web designer didn’t build the site exactly how they wanted it.
For a wantrepreneur, it’s easier to make an excuse than to face the reality of their own shortcomings.
5. Entrepreneurs are playing the long time, wantrepreneurs are impatient
Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos said that being an overnight success takes about 10 years. Entrepreneurs understand this. You can’t build a business overnight, it takes years of hard work to make a successful, sustainable business.
That doesn’t stop them, they just keep toiling away, day after day, getting the job done.
Wantrepreneurs don’t have time to wait 10 years. They need the success now because they’ve already told everyone that they are a successful business owner. They won’t stick it out much longer than a few months or a year, then they’ll move on to the next idea.
You’ll spot an wantrepreneur a mile away if they’ve talked about 5 different businesses in as many months.