An entrepreneur is one who literally “takes between,” as the French would say.

What are the two things between which he takes? And, what kind of “taking” characterizes an entrepreneur? Interpretations vary, but you might simply say the entrepreneur “takes advantage of the moment.” Or, “takes stock” of her situation.

Or, going to our Roman forefathers, the entrepreneur carpe diem, or “seizes the day.”

One last linguistic thrust—related to the characteristic the small business owner possesses—the word entrepreneur may also be derived from the Sanskrit word antha prerna, which means self-motivation.

And so, we have the small business owner acting in opportune moments, motivating himself to new realities. The realities reflect the ancient Scottish proverb that notes “whoso would be a leader must also be a bridge.”

Too, whoso would be a small business person must also be a bridge between the comfort of the present and the risk of the future; between known security and unknown outcomes; between dependence and independence; between listening to authority and being the authority.

Know When to Cross That Bridge

How do you know when it’s time to change your circumstances and venture into a small business of your own?

For one man, that turning point occurred when he was part of a traditional corporate culture. The setting: a typical staff meeting. The year: 1982. The turning point: The boss had asked if anyone had suggestions for a problem the company was facing. Jeff Salzman raised his hand and offered his idea. The boss’s reply: “Jeff, that‘s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

That’s when Salzman knew it was time to take his drive, his talent, and his entrepreneurial spirit and start his own small business. He found a partner, borrowed money from his mother, and CareerTrak was born. Thirteen years later, the company was sold for 13 million dollars!

Everyone’s turning point is different. And, there are both major turning points and minor ones, as well. But, remember what Peter Drucker, father of Modern Management Science, had to say about those who forge new paths, as entrepreneurs invariably do: “Leaders know how to ask questions…the right questions.”

Know Which Questions to Ask

You can find your own questions. You can ask those whose opinions you trust for questions. You can be guided by questions like these and others you’ll find online:

  • How do you know when you no longer fit into your existing work environment?
  • What do you have to offer that your current job is not tapping into?
  • Does the 9 to 5 lifestyle really suit you?
  • What are your passions?
  • What other business leaders do you admire and why?
  • How are you like them?
  • How imaginative are you?
  • What do you really want to do with your life?
  • Do you agree with what Tom Peters had to say about people in traditional jobs: “If you have gone a whole week without being disobedient, you are doing yourself and your organization a disservice”?
  • Do you believe you can make the world a better place (or your small corner of it)?

Know If You’ve Stayed Too Long in a Safe Harbor

To be sure, especially in these days of fear and instability, security is an important consideration. But once we have found a new normal, small business will make a comeback. We’ve already started to see how Zoom, for example, is expanding its customer base in the worst of times.

More entrepreneurial endeavors will help create that new normal. Our leaders are telling us to expect the best, but prepare for the worst. Your self-motivation represents the bridge between these two antithetical outcomes.

Make your first step on that bridge by thinking along optimistic lines, while having a safety net beneath you.

And if you need assurance, be heartened by the words of Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”