Working as a CEO, being an entrepreneur

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When people ask what my dad does, I always say that he is a photographer. Technically speaking, he works at a camera company and does photography in his spare time. But that’s how I see him, professionally. It is a slightly incorrect way of saying what he does, but quite a good way of describing who he is.

As I thought about this, I went to myself and thought about how I tend to introduce myself. After moving to San Francisco I’ve noticed that the acronym “CEO” has a bit of a halo effect. This is a much more hierarchical society than I’m used to. So sometimes I just say that I “run a company”, or “work with a company”. The reactions I get are quite different depending on my choice of words.

The reason for not just sticking with “CEO” is that I don’t really see myself as the person that people tend to see when I say that. It doesn’t describe who I am and it doesn’t really describe what I do either. Being a CEO is so many different things depending on what company you are with and what stage it is in. And even if it had described it well, that would still only have been like a shortened work description.

I’m wondering if all this is why people like to describe themselves as entrepreneurs. It is a blanket term that goes beyond the specifics of what you do all day and focuses more on you being a person that likes to make new things. Then you do whatever you need to do in order to get them done. Getting it done is your job. But being an entrepreneur is who you are. 

On the rare occasion when I try to describe myself a little further, I sometimes say that I’m an “accidental entrepreneur”. It just happens somehow. Suddenly I’m running a company or a project of some sort, and it has been that way since I started my first company at the age of 16. That seems to be who I am – whether I like it or not. It’s just that I have jobs with titles that cloud that fact sometimes.

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