What does being an entrepreneur REALLY mean these days?

HIROLA Group's Amit Shah explores what being an entrepreneur really means these days, hype versus reality and whether some people are discouraged by it all.

These days, entrepreneurs rub shoulders with pop stars and famous actors. With such a change in narrative around entrepreneurship, GrowthBusiness speaks with Amit Shah, CEO of HIROLA Group, to provide a less air-brushed version of what it’s like to run a business.

There’s so much hype around ‘being an entrepreneur’. Does that live up to reality?

When you tell someone you’re an entrepreneur, particularly an entrepreneur in the tech industry, they immediately have a set of expectations because of this hype around the role. They might imagine an absolutely hectic lifestyle, or outrageous amounts of money being thrown around by VCs. The reality generally doesn’t tend to live up to imagination – not everyone is Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, and not everyone has absurd working hours or businesses built off of one wild idea or product.

That isn’t to say that entrepreneurship isn’t without its perks: as an entrepreneur, you are your own boss, and you experience all the freedom that comes with that. You also get to spend all your time and energy on a product or venture that you truly believe in. The reality of being an entrepreneur might not be quite as dramatic – or as frantic – as people have come to expect, but there definitely are some justifications for the hype!

What is the day to day of being an entrepreneur actually like?

‘For me, I imagine the day to day is not that different from some other non-entrepreneurial jobs; I work with a team, I work with clients, and I make sure work gets done. The crucial difference is the responsibility of being the person behind the business – as I mentioned, being an entrepreneur means being in control, but this also means being responsible for the fate of the company. This responsibility can be a lot of pressure.

However, this doesn’t mean that I am up till all hours at the demands of the business, or that it comes at the cost of my personal life. As an entrepreneur, because you have most of the control, you have the final say about whether it means working ridiculous hours or being put into stressful situations. Yes, I work hard, but I’m not prepared to make myself ill over it. That’s not going to lead to great outcomes for anyone.

Which myths about entrepreneurship frustrate you the most?

What frustrates me most is the myth that only certain types of people are entrepreneurs – people from certain backgrounds, or of certain demographics, or with certain personality types. This myth is definitely perpetuated by the stereotypical image of entrepreneurs, especially tech entrepreneurs, as young, privileged men from wealthy backgrounds. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and you only have to walk into any co-working space to see this!

A part of this myth is the idea that entrepreneurs all have a particular personality. People play up particular traits as being common to all entrepreneurs: bombastic, charismatic, or even aggressive, but these traits aren’t necessary or even helpful for every venture. And shows such as The Apprentice certainly haven’t helped. What most entrepreneurs will really have in common is the ability to be responsible, pragmatic, and organised – not exactly glamorous traits, but these are what is required to keep a business afloat.

Do you think the current rhetoric is discouraging certain people from getting involved in the start-up world?

Regrettably, that is probably the case. I would hope that anyone with a vision and will to start their own business would ignore the naysayers, but I imagine being told that to be successful you have to be a certain way would make the choice, which can already be a risk, seem completely out of the question.

On top of this, the prospect of late nights, a demanding lifestyle and endless funding rounds cannot appeal to many people. If this is the impression of the start-up world that many people have, I wouldn’t be surprised if many people felt discouraged. If more people knew how diverse the start-up world is, in terms of people, attitudes and types of business, I think we would see an increase in individuals getting involved.

What can be done to make the message more accurate?

The first step should be to change the image of start-ups and entrepreneurs that we see in the media. What is need is demystification of what it means to be an entrepreneur and run a start-up and more stories about entrepreneurs and businesses that don’t fit into the stereotypical mould. Representation is key. Seeing and hearing diverse stories about successful businesspeople and business models would promote an image of the start-up world that matches up with reality. While sleepless nights, risk-taking and the slog of finding VC funding might be a stimulating story, it isn’t representative. There are undoubtedly people out there that would welcome a more balanced narrative about what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Amit Shah is the CEO of HIROLA Group, a London-based technology developer.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

Related Topics

Female founders