These days, entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Larry Page are almost like celebrities. And just like with any other celebrities, the ideas we have about these people and what they actually do are often shockingly wrong!
So here are 8 of the greatest myths you might believe about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship:
Myth 1: If your idea is good, you’ll be successful.
Having a good idea is actually one of the least important factors in building a successful business. A good idea that is badly executed means nothing. More than anything, to be an entrepreneur, you need to be a good businessperson and a hard worker.
Thomas Edison — who invented the lightbulb — was also one of the greatest businessmen in American history. It is thus not surprising that one of his most famous quotes is:
Myth 2: To be a successful entrepreneur, you must invent something new.
“What is your million dollar idea?” is a phrase we often hear in movies, popular culture, and reality shows where hopeful entrepreneurs try to sell their inventions to judges.
But you don’t actually need to have the original invention to make a million dollars. Can you think of a single thing that Richard Branson invented? Even Mark Zuckerberg didn’t invent social networks (remember Myspace?).
What Zuckerberg did do with Facebook, however, is improve on existing social networks. Inventors are the exception; most entrepreneurs merely find ways in which they can take something that already exists, and make it better.
Myth 3: Men make better entrepreneurs than women.
Just because in most societies women are considered to be responsible for raising children or maintaining the home environment, it doesn’t mean they don’t have what it takes to be successful entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Angela Benton argues that the opposite is true:
“Being a single mom is NOT a setback… don’t let the perception of this lifestyle count you out before you even count yourself in. Being a single mom comes with a wealth of skills that do well in entrepreneurship like: multitasking, creativity, managing and/or operating on a budget, and problem-solving to say the least. I don’t know about you but I’d put my money on someone with these skills rather than a new college grad.”
Myth 4: Entrepreneurship is about making money.
At the top of Forbes’ list of wealthiest people in the world are Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. It is thus not surprising that we think entrepreneurship is all about big money.
Successful people will often tell you, however, that passion comes first. The money will naturally follow if you love what you are doing and believe in it. The opposite is also often true: if you only care about making money, you are missing those key ingredients required for making your business a success.
Myth 5: Entrepreneurs are risk-takers.
Perhaps the entrepreneurs portrayed in Hollywood movies are usually daring and spontaneous risk-takers. But in reality, most entrepreneurs are meticulous and careful business practitioners.
Even Richard Branson, known for his adventurous and wild personality, always looks before he leaps:
“Business opportunities are like buses; there’s always another one coming.”
— Sir Richard Branson
Myth 6: To be an entrepreneur today, you have to work in technology.
Our notion of entrepreneurship has changed considerably in the past few years. We have this belief now, thanks to tech start-up entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Shuttleworth, that to be a successful entrepreneur you simply have to build an app or develop a computer program and you’ll make millions.
At the end of the day, however, it is still just about selling a product. It doesn’t matter whether it is a new cellphone app or a new type of car air-freshener. In fact, tech start-ups are finding it increasingly difficult to develop a profitable product precisely because the tech market is so highly populated and consequently highly competitive.
Myth 7: You will answer to no one.
One of the biggest motivators you might have for becoming an entrepreneur is that you want to be your own boss. While you might be in charge of your company, this does not mean you will just be able to do what you want.
As a business owner, you might have more responsibility toward other people than ever before: toward your shareholders and investors, your clients, and especially your employees!
“If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions and you have to, you have to, be run by ideas, not hierarchy.”
– Steve Jobs
Myth 8: Entrepreneurs don’t need an education.
The biggest entrepreneurs of our time all seem to be university drop-outs: Jobs, Branson, Zuckerberg, Gates, and the founders of WhatsApp, Twitter, Uber, and Dell.
But the reason why so many of these great entrepreneurs dropped out of university was because they didn’t feel like they were getting an education that would be useful to their businesses.
For the same reason, John D. Rockefeller, the first recorded billionaire in history, dropped out of school to take a business course from a local college. He knew he didn’t need academic education, but practical business knowledge and training.
This is very much the idea behind Oxbridge Academy’s business and entrepreneurship courses. We don’t believe you need a university degree to be successful. But we do believe you need a certain degree of business-related education. You need to learn essential business skills if you want to start a thriving business.
Note: This article was originally published on 9 October 2015, and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.