Entrepreneurs: What makes them different?

We’ve all been in business long enough to know the facts. We’ve heard the stories. We’ve read the biographies about the distinctiveness of entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs lead in uncertain economic times, boldly innovating where established companies fear to tread, hiring when others lay off, increasing product development where others cut back. We know this to be true, and we celebrate it again this year by recognizing the incredible talent on display at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Northeast Ohio 2010 awards.

What makes entrepreneurs act the way they do? High-growth companies have as much to lose as established companies, if not more, with far less cushion to fall back on in the event of failure. And yet they persevere, they continue to move forward, eyes wide open for the innovative, the new, the unique. They’re hungry, they’re driven, and they’re sharply focused.

But, surely, entrepreneurs must have something else, because those qualities can be found in organizations young and old, large and small. After presenting these awards for 24 years and meeting thousands of successful entrepreneurs and hearing their stories, we think we’ve identified their ultimate, sometimes hidden but clearly recognizable driving force. It’s more than starting a business, employing people and succeeding in whatever industry they’ve chosen, despite all of the barriers to success and pitfalls along the way. It’s simply this: Entrepreneurs want to change the world.

We at Ernst & Young are honored to recognize their achievements, and we salute their desires to change the world. We trust they’re going to do it in a positive, innovative, beneficial and long-lasting way. In fact, we’re counting on it.

Let’s congratulate them for their achievement, encourage their perseverance and admire their ingenuity. By supporting them, we can all help to change the world.

Lee Thomas is the program director for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Northeast Ohio awards.