University College Tilburg

offers the multidisciplinary program of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In a state-of-the art location at the heart of the campus, a nurturing environment is created that allows international students to develop into critical thinkers and future leaders.

Happy Living: What Do Entrepreneurs Teach Us?

A Story About Narratives

Column Ellen Dreezens 1

I know what you think I am going to say. Or, better, I THINK I know what you think I am going to say. But wait, before this gets ridiculously complicated, let’s move on…

Probably, you think this blog will be about how entrepreneurs teach us how we can be more successful. We have to ‘go for it 100% (whatever IT might be)’ or we have to ‘get the best out of ourselves all the time‘. But that is not what I want to say. Because I think entrepreneurs teach us a very different lesson, one we don’t hear too often. And for all non-entrepreneurs, this story isn’t about entrepreneurship…

The businesslocus-model of entrepreneurship

Column Ellen Dreezens 2

See this little red blob in the upper right-hand corner of this figure? That is about 4% of all entrepreneurs. These people are called ‘Hunters‘ and this is how Motivaction (Dutch) describes them:

  • Young highly educated males
  • Believes in his company/product 100%
  • Always looking for something new, takes risks, looking for a thrill
  • Is looking for success, growth, and money
  • Wants status and respect. Asks a lot of himself and his employees.
  • No difference between work and private life
  • Likes gadgets
Column Ellen Dreezens 3

This guy is a hunter!!

 Do you recognize yourself in this type of entrepreneur? Probably not! At least, statistically speaking, this is only 4% of all entrepreneurs. So, chances are much higher (96% to be exact) that you are not like this type of person if you are an entrepreneur. Why then, does everybody think of this type of entrepreneur, the fast and furious type, when thinking about entrepreneurs? Why has this ‘story’ of entrepreneurship become the one we tell each other over and over again? Why is it this narrative that works for us? And DOES this narrative work for us?

For me, it doesn’t. I am an entrepreneur, and I am nothing like a hunter. I am more of a guardian/pragmatic type (the purple and blue blobs in the left downside corner of the figure, in total, 40% of all entrepreneurs). That means I think norms and values are important. I am a trend follower, not a trendsetter. I have a strong sense of responsibility. I am open to new things, and I think the responsibilities that come with entrepreneurship are hard. That’s a totally different story! And I have a lot of problems with the narrative that our culture has about entrepreneurs.

Problems with the narrative

So, sometimes, I have big doubts about being an entrepreneur. And I would like to talk to other entrepreneurs about that. I want to say: ‘Jesus, this whole work-life balance is shifting the wrong way; how do you deal with that?’ or ‘Sometimes, I don’t know whether the product I am offering is actually the right one; what do you think?’ And almost always, I then get a speech from the other entrepreneur (or even from non-entrepreneurs) saying: ‘But if YOU don’t trust your offering, then who is going to?’ or ‘But do you spend enough time on your company, because three months ago, you did go on holiday for 3 weeks, and I don’t think you should leave a company alone that long!’ That’s hunter-talk if you ask me. And I don’t think Hunter-talk is wrong, but it IS wrong for non-hunters. All entrepreneurs seem to be keeping up appearances and comparing themselves to the Joneses, and it doesn’t work for them! Because why would you compare yourself to someone you will never be and that you even don’t WANT to be? I don’t want a lot of money! I don’t care for status! I hate gadgets! So why should I be a hunter? Why can’t I be happy being a guardian? I like guarding! I like my values! But I truthfully feel like I am not allowed to be who I am.

Is it me or is it them?

So, who doesn’t allow me to be who I am? Is it me, or is it them? And here comes the difficult part. It is me. I want to live up to this narrative of the hunter. Deep down, somehow, I think hunters are more valuable than guardians. I believe this story about going-for-it-100%-and-all-else-is-not-good-enough. Obviously, this story is told by them. But am I not also one of them? Am I not also telling this story? By liking the hunter better than the guardian? By not standing up for all the 5 other types of entrepreneurs (pragmatics, loners, developers, experts and guardians), who make up 96% of all entrepreneurs?

This blog is not about entrepeneurship

This blog is about ‘the narrative‘. Because we tell each other all kinds of narratives. We believe ‘the dominant narrative’, whatever it is. ‘Women are caretakers, not powerful’. ‘We need our economy to grow’. ‘Everyone needs a tablet’. ‘There should be no tax on kerosene, because then we can’t fly across the globe 5 times a year anymore’. All of these are narratives. All of these, we believe. So, what is the most important narrative that holds you back? What is the story YOU want to break out of? How are you holding yourself back by believing what ‘they’ tell you?

And when you’ve determined what your undermining narrative is, change it! Make your own narrative. Your own story is just as true as the dominant one! And then live it. In small steps. Be unbelievable! Be grand! Be inspiring!

Need inspiration how you can change narratives? Triodos bank does an awesome job. See their commercial about growth.

Want to figure out what type of entrepreneur you are? There is a test, but it is only in Dutch… Sorry!