Guest Post: When does an entrepreneur become a businessman?

Mark Allewell is a successful serial entrepreneur based in Cape Town, in the mobile, media tech travel space. He started his career in the hospitality industry in South Africa, before opening the doors to his first company, The Frontline Training Company. He is the founder of Tourism Radio and Hummba.com.

So, when does an entrepreneur become a businessman? It all starts with an idea.

Over time, your idea gathers momentum, causing a cascade of emotions in the process that very few non-entrepreneurs will ever get to experience. Anticipation, excitement and even terror are just some of the words that immediately come to mind; it’s a veritable (self-inflicted) emotional rollercoaster. But deep down you know, your idea will be a success.

My idea for Tourism Radio started in 2005 – probably before then actually, as I had been involved in the tourist industry for some time already. Today, my idea operates on three continents and works with some of the world’s leading brands; creating location-based audio experiences for their clients. I’ve been both financially and emotionally invested in the company for seven years. But am I still an entrepreneur, or have I crossed over to the realm of a businessman? A little bit of both I think.

I meet budding entrepreneurs on an almost daily basis. Many of them believe that starting a business is actually difficult – I disagree. As entrepreneurs, we are driven by emotion, regardless of what the television adverts tell us. This emotion peaks when a business is in its start-up phase; you’ll know it when it happens. Nothing scares you. No obstacle is too daunting. You feel like a child in an open field, playing with your friends, day dreaming about what you want to be when you grow up.

Eventually however, you do grow up, along with your idea. Suddenly you’re expected to start making money and delivering on the promises you made to your shareholders. You’ve crossed the Rubicon and there’s no turning back.

Being able to make this transition; knowing that you now have enough money to walk away if you wanted to, but working even harder regardless; is what makes a truly great entrepreneur. Wading through the reporting that your shareholders expect, dealing with clients who have little or no interest in your entrepreneurial prowess and even just coming to work a little bit earlier than your staff to show them that you’re on the front lines also quickly become ‘part of the job’.

To aspiring entrepreneurs I say don’t think about ‘the exit’ when you start your business. That will come in time, should your little idea prove to be as successful as you once imagined. Rather, think about building a business that can stand alone; something of substance, and something with real value. That, for me, is what being an entrepreneur is all about. That is when an entrepreneur becomes a businessman.

Follow Mark Allewell on Twitter @markallewell

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