There are many business owners in the world today, but there are few entrepreneurs. What distinguishes the entrepreneur from other business owners? Simple. Entrepreneurs create. They build something out of nothing.
Consider this. An entrepreneur creates an organization. In the beginning, the entrepreneur may be the only employee. As the organization grows, the entrepreneur will recruit other employees. As a blacksmith would forge a chain one link at a time, the successful entrepreneur grows their organization one employee at a time.
Occasionally, the entrepreneur hires a bad employee. This cannot be helped. Therefore, the entrepreneur must always be on the lookout for these weak links. When a weak link is identified, the entrepreneur faces a dilemma: strengthen the link to greater effectiveness, eliminate the link, or ignore the problem.
A chain is only as strong as the weakest link
But ignoring the problem is never a real option. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, but the chain holds, does that change the strength of the weak link? Certainly not. The link is still weak, which makes the chain vulnerable. Ignore the weakness, and the entrepreneur ultimately sets themselves up for failure.
So the entrepreneur is faced with only two real choices when a bad employee is identified. The entrepreneur must either mentor and encourage the employee, or the entrepreneur must fire the employee. Thus, the successful entrepreneur cannot be a deist. They cannot be indifferent to their “creation.” They must intervene. They must be involved. They must constantly monitor their organization for weakness and act upon their findings.
The problem is, the entrepreneur is not perfect. All entrepreneurs are human. They are biased. They may misidentify a good employee as a bad employee. And they may fail to identify a bad employee. After all, people like to be around other people with similar likes and interests. We all naturally like people with whom we can identify.
The shadow of the entrepreneur
Because of their constant involvement and their natural bias, the entrepreneur creates an organization that is a natural reflection of themselves. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. His character determines the character of the organization.” I could not agree more. In fact, I would extend this observation to organizations of all sizes. Every great and small organization is the shadow of a single person.
In the business world, this single person is the entrepreneur. He is the blacksmith, creating in his own image. And because of this fact, the entrepreneur is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the organization. The entrepreneur can delegate their authority to their employees, but they can never abnegate their responsibility to their organization.