What’s the definition of entrepreneurship?
Few words are as abused in the lexicon of the business world, as ill defined in the management literature, and as open to multiple meanings as entrepreneurship. The concept of entrepreneurship has been in our modern society for thousands of years and in the history of economic study the word has been overused, and in some cases underused.
Carl Voigt, dean of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, explains, “We sort of defined entrepreneurialism too narrowly as someone who wants to start their own business. But entrepreneurialism can also mean finding new business opportunities and expansion at existing companies.”
Starting with practically nothing, an entrepreneur is one who organizes a new venture, manages it, and assumes the associated risk. The term entrepreneur is broadly defined to include business owners, innovators, and executives in need of capital to start a new project, introducing a new product, or expanding a promising line of business. We include technology transfer experts, technologists at leading universities, and consultants and advisors assisting in all aspects of venturing. An entrepreneur’s principal objectives are profit and growth, and they will employ formal strategic management practices to achieve them.
The French Connection
The concept of entrepreneur is borrowed from the French words entreprendre, “one who undertakes”—that is, a “manager.” In fact, the word entrepreneur was shaped probably from celui qui entreprend, which is loosely translated as “those who get things done.” In the early eighteenth century, a group of thinkers called the Physiocrats surfaced in France around a school of new economic theory. They were the first proponents of laissez-faire and opposed all government intervention in industry, especially taxation. Their doctrine was that the economic affairs of society are best guided by the decisions of individuals.
One of the most famous among them was Richard Cantillon. In a paper he worked on between 1730 and 1734 and that was later published in 1775 as Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, he introduced the concept of entrepreneur. He developed these early theories of the entrepreneur after observing the merchants, farmers, and craftsmen of his time. Jean-Baptiste Say, a French businessman turned economist, followed Cantillon with his Trait d’economie politique in 1803. His work commented on the theory of markets and how the entrepreneur is involved in this transaction of goods for money.