Who is an entrepreneur? Many people from many parts have attempted to answer this question, a difficult one, the answer to which can lead to downfall. Yet there are some who have sought to answer it without any theories but instead by telling a story. This is the case of Luigi Einaudi who more than a century ago wrote Un principe mercante [“A Merchant Prince”], the story of Enrico dell’Acqua from Busto Arsizio, who travelled the world “doing it himself” and creating the concept of the Italian entrepreneur. This story made history in economics literature, possibly also because it was written clearly, and has been revived today by Paolo Silvestri in an article which appeared in Biblioteca della libertà, the online four-monthly magazine of the Centro Einaudi in Turin. The result is another story, a long ride through a century of economics and civics teaching in which names such as Piero Gobetti, Adam Smith, Norberto Bobbio and Joseph Schumpeter and, more recently, Sergio Ricossa and Giuseppe Berta, as well as that of Einaudi obviously, stand out.
Silvestri has written sixteen pages which reveal the basic features of being an entrepreneur, now as in the past, i.e. the person whose conduct cannot be theorised that much yet should be told and observed in order to be understood, even if it can never be grasped entirely. Despite this Silvestri, obviously using Einaudi as an example, daringly suggests that “the entrepreneur is the person who 1) chooses which goods are to be produced, 2) decides what should and should not be sold on the market, 3) establishes strategic policy and corporate objectives and weighs up the most suitable means for achieving them, 4) fulfils consumer requirements, even the “stranger” type”.
This is possibly a simplistic snapshot of doing business today, but it is also a living portrait which is worth examining. Above all for at least two concepts which emerge from the article. Good entrepreneurship travels at the same pace as good governance and the creation of a society open to inspiration and merit. Good entrepreneurship and good corporate culture then are born from a positive tension between caution and risk, tradition and innovation.
Il paradigma dell’imprenditore in una società liberale: tra prudenza e rischio-innovazione
Biblioteca della libertà
Online four-monthly magazine of the Centro Einaudi, 2012