We live in an era in which the perception of a person owning a business or being an entrepreneur is akin to being a superhero.
Over the past five years (and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic), I’ve observed entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and traditional media fuel one persona depicting what it is to be an entrepreneur: a persona of being a courageous warrior taking risks to overcome the problems faced by society.
And the soldiers that support this courageous warrior? Employees.
Even our politicians sing from the same hymn sheet: Small business is the economy’s lifeblood and we must do everything possible to support entrepreneurs who, in turn, create more jobs.
So as the spotlight on entrepreneurs continues to gain momentum thanks to traditional media and social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, we must also be conscious of an implicit statement formed simultaneously: ‘Entrepreneurs are more important than employees.’
I’ve had the opportunity to experience both while running my own businesses and being employed at companies of varying sizes and growth stages in South Africa. Currently, I’m a partner in a founder-led business. I’ve been exposed to both sides of the same coin around career paths.
As human beings, our primal habit is constantly deciding where people fit in the proverbial food chain of status. I believe the act of placing more importance on entrepreneurs over employees is mistaken and naive. Moreover, the unconscious dividing or comparison of entrepreneurs versus employees is short-sighted.
- Firstly, most people we label as entrepreneurs have created their own employment. In other words, if they stepped away from their businesses for three months or longer, their businesses would collapse. Only a minority have created companies that can operate independently without the founders’ help. Notably, every entrepreneur is not equal.
- Secondly, entrepreneurs don’t face more risks than employees. Entrepreneurs face different types of risks. Google the latest round of retrenchments globally to understand that employees are facing tremendous risks to security, contrary to the common stereotype around employee security.
- Finally, deciding to be an entrepreneur rather than be employed is a career choice, not a superpower. Everyone has a different appetite for learning and is energised by various situations and roles. I know of many friends who tried the entrepreneurial career path and didn’t enjoy it; they preferred being focused on one role and contributing to the best of their ability.
Entrepreneurship or employment? So, which one is better?
Neither is better because both career paths are essential to the growth of our society in creating solutions to our everchanging problems. I encourage you to view each option as a changeable career choice and value each as a different type of warrior in the same fight against challenges.
GRANT GREEFF CA(SA)
Director at SearchKings™ Africa