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The Opposite of Entrepreneur is NOT Employee

  • By Tim Ball

The other day I was looking up for synonyms for the word ‘entrepreneur’ on when my eye caught the ‘antonyms’ section directly below. There was the word ‘employee’- meaning the polar opposite of an entrepreneur is an employee!

I couldn’t believe it. That plays right into the biggest myth of them all- that entrepreneurs are a ‘different’ kind of human, almost with different chromosomes.

Entrepreneurs are made, not born

Being an entrepreneur is not a personality trait. It is not or something you are born with or not. I was definitely not born an entrepreneur. A mini Richard Branson growing up, I was not. I was not the least bit imaginative or creative, with no leadership flair. Having started my working life as an employee, I became an entrepreneur in the process of following through with a business idea I had. It’s just that in starting a business, I was ‘forced’ to behave in a certain way- to behave like how all other entrepreneurs behave. Which is why, for those that know me, I titled the book I wrote about my own entrepreneurial journey Anyone Can Do It. Meaning exactly that: anyone can do it.

My belief is that the actual process of starting a new business sparks the innate entrepreneurial qualities every human being has. The whole process is so completely out of your comfort zone- so difficult- that you end up digging deep inside yourself to access skills you didn’t even know you had – and make a big behaviour shift – because that’s all you have. Necessity really does become the mother of invention.

But an employee working in an established company has almost the opposite experience. The only way you are ‘forced’ to behave is to keep it all very safe. The business already has customers, resources and systems. It has a comfort zone. All you have to do is keep the status quo ticking along and not rock the boat. There being no need to re-invent anything or challenge yourself too much. No need for behaviour or mindset shifts. You can afford to just coast along. So as a result, you don’t need to dig deep to access all your skills and abilities. They remain untapped.

“The corporate environment is losing its comfort zone. Ticking along is no longer an option”

But the relentless pace of disruption we live in, is changing this equation dramatically. The corporate environment is losing its comfort zone. Ticking along is no longer an option. Even customers are no longer a given. A big market share today is doesn’t mean the same market share tomorrow. An established company has to fight for customers and resources every single day just like a start up has to. The boat is rocking uncontrollably. You can’t just coast along.

New context, new stimulus, new behaviour

So what this means is that now it’s not that different working in a start up or in an established company. Everyone operates in the same uncertainty and pace as a start up environment, regardless of size or longevity. So what we will be seeing is employees having to make massive mindset and behaviour shifts out of sheer force of necessity. Just like I had to, when I started my business. Just like every entrepreneur has had to. They will need to dig deep and tap into their entrepreneurial traits – that might have been previously dormant. They will have to think creatively and find solutions almost out of thin air.

And this will happen naturally, just like it did for me, turning from an employee mindset into an entrepreneur’s mindset. I had no idea I had these qualities until I was ‘forced’ to use them. Because what we are talking about here are human qualities. You don’t need a degree or training course for them. You don’t to study empathy, curiosity, resourcefulness, or resilience. You are born with them. Its just that maybe, until now, you didn’t need to use them at work. You just kept them for your personal life. Now you will have to use them at work. It will take practice to feel confident enough to use what you might have considered ‘personal’ qualities at work. But it will be worth it. And it’s a no brainer, if you’re into self-improvement.

“You don’t to study empathy, curiosity, resourcefulness, or resilience. You are born with them”.
In future posts I will go deeper into some tools you can use, and some obstacles to navigate in a corporate environment. But for now, just know, that if you’re human, you’re an entrepreneur and activating your inner entrepreneur is the easiest yet most transformative skill ready for you, right now, to tap into.

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