Can a single person with a small and closely held business be an enterprise? Yes, it is about the way in which the person makes money, often through disconnected business interests where there is little interactive relationship of customers.
Many independent contractors are an enterprise of one. An example may be helpful. A real estate agent in most cases is an independent contractor. Whether they are also an independent one person brokerage or affiliated with another brokerage, they are still independent with few if any restrictions on being involved in other businesses. Many have several businesses that they are involved in simultaneously and do not necessarily share a common customer base. They might sell a line of retail products, write and sell books, create and deliver training and or seminars. Some additionally offer property management services and broker price opinions for companies such as relocation companies. You will find these people also invest passively and actively in other companies.
This example shows that the person is a single individual with many lines of making money, there are no common employers, they may not employ anyone else and customers may not even be aware of their other business activities.
People who operate as an enterprise of one have to be highly organized to be successful. No matter how many skills, talents, or business interests they may have. They have one universal and limiting factor – Time.
Time forces the growing enterprise of one to engage in both active and passive businesses to generate money. In the example above, selling books they have written can be contracted to a third party requiring the management of the vendor rather than significant investment of time.
Perhaps what I find most interesting about people who fall in this category is that they are also the ones who often take leadership roles in the community, give their time, money and expertise to help others. They have learned to utilize their resources, energy and time on a level that brings envy and admiration.
An enterprise of one person does not necessarily lack focus at all. In fact due to their personal organization skills and use of time and resources, they are a highly desired contributor, vendor and service provider. These people do not do well in companies that limit business activities or require that they own all work product created during employment tenure. Consequently, most are independent.
Imagine the power a company could have if it engaged and utilized people who are an enterprise of one. Perhaps more exciting would be if the education and training people receive from early years through business activities opened the thinking and style of work to embrace the skills found in the people we call an enterprise of one.