Posted: Fri 11th Sep 2015
A headline in the Irish Times proclaims: 'Overuse of the word 'entrepreneur' has leached it of all meaning'. So should we stop using it?
In a strong critique technology journalist Karlin Lillington says the real definition of entrepreneur, coined by French economist Jean-Baptiste Say in 1803 and associated with a businessperson who takes risks, looks for opportunity and disrupts markets. has been forgotten.
"The term seems to have become the most tediously overused epithet in business, ever", she adds.
Lillington grew up in what is now the "groovy" heart of Silicon Valley but admits to rarely hearing the word, even to describe early tech pioneers like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
But during the 1990s dot com boom 'entrepreneur' became associated with "trendy semi-geek millionaires" obsessed with quirky offices filled with basketballs courts and slides,
A decade or so on the term hasn't gone away, Lillington continues. In fact, she says, "it now catches even more people in its parameters, going by people's use of it their LinkedIn profiles".
Everyone who starts something, however small, is now classed as an entrepreneur, she bemoans, so much so that we are "in the midst of an entrepreneurial epidemic" with "a tumbling tsunami of entrepreneurs" that "rain down upon us".
An interesting argument.
We will admit that we use the word 'entrepreneur' a lot. Is that a bad thing?
Many business owners we come across tell us that they don't like the word. It is associated with the likes of Sir Richard Branson and Peter Jones, who run massive business empires, they say, which is someone they have no intention of replicating. For some, being called an entrepreneur is too much pressure. As Lord Sugar once said, the only person who should call you entrepreneur is someone else.
But for others entrepreneur is a hugely positive word and a place to which they want to get and a community they want to be part of.
It's a debate that will never be resolved, but we'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
Do you call yourself an 'entrepreneur'? Or are you a 'small business owner', 'CEO', 'MD' or 'founder'? Or perhaps you prefer 'self-employed'. Or maybe you don't care what you're called; building a great company is what matters. Tell us in the comments below.