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1.15 Entrepreneurial Goals

Some scholars argue that the ultimate goal for entrepreneurship is to create wealth, and if wealth is not created, it is something else than entrepreneurship. This implicitly means that wealth creation is the same as success. This position we have some fundamental difficulty with as wealth may not be the primary or even secondary goal, but just an outgrowth of achieving another goal. Dr. Jonas Salk could have patented his polio vaccine but choice instead to eradicate the disease. To imply you have to be wealthy to be considered an entrepreneur simply is ludicrous.

But, there is another difficulty if you say wealth creation is the only goal of entrepreneurs, because it means that entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs only if they succeed (in wealth creation). That would mean that those who fail are not entrepreneurs. They are something else. The stories of failed entrepreneurs are rarely found in media stories, somehow indicating that failure is less frequent than success. Yet we all know this is not the case. If the twin brothers Francis Edgar Stanley and Freelan Oscar Stanley who founded The Stanley Motor Carriage Company had been successful, we all would be driving steam-driven cars. Failures do occur, some more spectacular than others.

However, even academic researchers have not really looked at failed entrepreneurs. One reason to this is certainly that it is very hard to find entrepreneurs who are willing to talk about their failure. That is simply a very human thing. We rather like to talk about our successes than our failures. It is possible that failure is driven by many of the same factors as success. The reality is that we cannot really understand what drives success without looking at failure. Here is where work done many years ago is informative. There is evidence that entrepreneurs will have as many as seven ventures in a lifetime and yet only one of those will be deemed “a success.” The issue is when does that successful try come? Is it at the front of this life-long process or does it happen on the seventh try? Take as another example the bankruptcy statistics to understand the issue is not trying. The real issue is whether society, family, and your attitudes will allow you able to try again. One of our grandfathers once reminded us that you have not really ridden a horse till you have been thrown off and gotten back on again. In many ways entrepreneurship is really like riding a horse, a big bucking one.

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