Are You An Entrepreneur Or A Business Owner?

Mitch Joel - February 20, 2011


There is a huge chasm between being an Entrepreneur and being a business owner?

An Entrepreneur is more than someone with an idea. An Entrepreneur is more than someone with an ability to take that idea and execute on it. An Entrepreneur is much more than an individual who is willing and able to secure the funding and resources to make their idea happen. A true Entrepreneur is someone who has an uncanny desire to create the future. Too many people in too many places focus on everything but that critical aspect of what it takes/means to be an Entrepreneur... and it bears repeating:

An Entrepreneur is someone who has an uncanny desire to create the future.

The best business models and the companies with the most innovation all started with an individual (or a team of people) who believed that the future success of their industry will look very different from its current state. Once everything kicks into place (funding, resources, etc...) something happens... and this is where the wheels of innovation can slow down (or come to a complete stop).

Most Entrepreneurs eventually become business owners.

Business owners think a lot less about creating the future because they are much too concerned with both mitigating risk and minimizing mistakes. There's nothing wrong with being a business owner, but it's an important distinction to make. The minute most Entrepreneurs have a semblance of success, their posture does change and they become/look like a business owner. It's normal, it's common, but it is kind of tragic. It's understandable in one sense, because with that success comes a bigger payroll and the Entrepreneur is now financially responsible for much more than their own rent (families now count on this person to deliver). Success also breeds complacency. It's easy to keep successfully doing what works and pull a fair wage for a fair product/service out of the world. No harm, no foul.

Perpetual entrepreneurship is hard.

You can poke fun at Steve Jobs and everything Apple does all you like, but ask yourself this: if you were a computer and software manufacturer, would you have the perpetual entrepreneurial guts to take a 180 turn and start making a phone? What about digital music players? What about the platform to sell music? What about a touch-tablet (after the failure of so many in this, exact, arena)? The amazing story of Apple (and many other brands) comes from their ability to do much more than just be business owners. It comes from their entrepreneurial spirit to innovate.

Is there a critical path or roadmap for the rest of us?

There are some common threads that are weaved through the most entrepreneurial individuals and organizations (in fact, it will be my next business book... how's that for a tease?). For some, it will involve their ability to embrace a new business model, for others it will involve their ability to respect the business owner that they have become while still embracing their internal Entrepreneur (and letting that mindset roam free). Regardless, the future is not going to be established by the business owners of today. The future is going to be created by the entrepreneurs who have the vision, business mindset and courage to not fall into the business owner's mindset of mitigating risk and minimizing mistakes.

What's your take on entrepreneurs?