A friend of mine is a serial jogger. His wife is a serial student.
By this I mean that my friend goes running several times a week and his wife has spent more of her life in college than out of it.
Of course I'm aware that 'serial jogger' and 'serial student' aren't really things any more than someone who goes shopping regularly is a serial shopper. Or a frequent traveler is a serial traveler.
We apply the word "serial" to those who commit multiple murders--serial killer. And to those seamlessly bounce from one serious relationship to another--serial monogamist.
I am certain I am biased but I think it's time we stopped using the term serial entrepreneur and, by similarity, casting us in with killers and people with dependency and identity issues.
The chances are overwhelming that you've heard the phrase 'serial entrepreneur' used to describe someone who has an idea, develops a company based around it, and then hands it off to focus on their next business enterprise.
Georgia O'Keefe produced painting after painting. Ansel Adams took photograph after photograph. Danny Meyer launched restaurant after restaurant. Adding serial to any of these professions--painter, photographer, restaurateur--would be superfluous and redundant. And a bit dismissive of their talents.
By qualifying "entrepreneur" with "serial" we're almost implying those who launch multiple business ventures have no choice. It's true that some entrepreneurs just aren't cut out to be employees. And others simply get addicted to the rush of winning the fight to launch a successful venture.
But even so, it's not same as dating and murder.
"Professional entrepreneurs could be compared to professional musicians. A musician needs a strong skill set, the right network, and unwavering dedication to have a slim chance at producing a hit song. And after that, your one hit song that tops the charts doesn't guarantee future success," Shawn Schwegman, Chief Executive of Gusto told me recently. "Entrepreneurs don't take a career step looking for a slightly higher pay or better working conditions. We swing big every time, and there aren't many other professions that do that."
"Serial" simply doesn't reflect the professionalism, drive or creativity required to start even one business let alone doing it over and over again. Anyone who's ever even flirted with the idea of starting a business knows how difficult it is. The act of taking more than one concept from spark to profit--and therefore the terms that describe it--need more respect.
And I don't feel that way simply because I am an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs are leaders, visionaries and continuous creators. Entrepreneurs are professionals who make a career of business itself in the same way someone who spends their career as C-suite leaders of several companies might. Yet there is no such term as serial CFO when our experience and expertise are no less valuable.
It seems as though entrepreneurs are singled out to be branded as "serial" because our contributions come at the birth of company. Somehow we're "serial entrepreneurs" because we create value instead of managing it.
But word choice is something we can manage and we can, in true entrepreneurial spirit, create a replacement. I have a simple and modest suggestion. The next time anyone feels the urge to label someone a "serial entrepreneur," let's use "professional entrepreneur" instead.
It's both more accurate and more appropriate. Being an entrepreneur is a serious, professional commitment and it's time the language showed it.