What is the difference between an entrepreneur and a small business owner? Is a franchisee an entrepreneur? And is every new business a “start up”?
|Entrepreneurship is a “No wuss zone!”|
Seems we wonder about labels, or others labeling us. It’s hard to decide what word or description fits you best, when you are out on your own.
Here’s part of a discussion of labels among three people I would call entrepreneurs on Twitter:
Chris Garrett: am often confused by the term entrepreneur – I’m in business but wouldn’t say I’m entrepreneurial?
Chris Brogan: I often make the joke that we accidentally identify as entrepreneur instead of “not really employable.”
Deb Brown: psychologically unemployable. that’s what I tell people.
We don’t fit in as employees, and we don’t fit old patterns of business ownership. We’re making up new ways of doing business. It’s easier to go with “unemployable” than to explain that you see yourself as some sort of new publisher or not-quite-entrepreneur.
Add to that the new perception: you may only be an entrepreneur because you were unemployed. Here’s the New York Times Op-Ed from Robert Reich:
So why all this entrepreneurship last year?
In a word, unemployment. Booted off company payrolls, millions of Americans had no choice but to try selling themselves. Another term for “entrepreneur” is “self-employed.”
And now, entrepreneur itself has become a bad word, staring to take on implications of greed, predatory tactics, and unfair dealings. When I first saw people say that entrepreneur has negative implications, I was surprised. This was news to me.
Does that leave us any positive way to describe ourselves? In a “What do you call yourself?” discussion held at Remarkablogger, people seemed to go to great lengths to make up new descriptions to replace the terms entrepreneur and business owner.
Entrepreneurs and Undertakers
The original meaning of the word entrepreneur is much like the original meaning of undertaker. It’s one who undertakes an enterprise. The person who takes the risk is the entrepreneur. Common usage now is different, implying a personality trait, or an intention, of growing a business.
High Growth Firms, Gazelles and Startups
Mom and Pop businesses, Bricks and Mortar
Who am I?
Who are you?
What do you call yourself? What traits would you add for entrepreneurs?
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Michelle Poteet says
I agree, entrepreneurs can be risk takers. Successful ones think outside the box, and most importantly think about their clients and potential clients! Great post! Do what you love, that’s my ‘two cents’!
Christine Morris says
It is a shame that Entrepreneur can be seen as a negative at times. As for the high unemployment recently, it was the final push I needed to follow my dreams! I am proud to be told I have an “Entrepreneurial Spirit” by my clients. Like Michelle said, Love what you do!
Andy Hayes | Travel Online Partners says
Laughing at the no wuss zone photo. :-) Brings back memories!
I hate labels and drawing lines and staunch definitions. I call myself an entrepreneur – mostly because it is easier than repeating my self “small business owner – X, small business owner – Y”, similar to yourself Becky. (Though arguably my businesses are not quite as diverse! LOL)
Regardless I agree, you definitely need to have some entrepreneurial spirit if you want your business to succeed. The odds are against you so you can only survive and THRIVE if you really want it badly enough.
Michael Martine says
Entrepreneur will never be as bad a word as Internet Marketer. :)
The folks at my discussion who strove to make up new terms actually missed the essence of my question (not that I’m complaining because it was still a worthy discussion). And it’s my fault for not asking a clearer question in the first place. But what I wanted to know is what label got their attention when they saw it in a headline. Entrepreneur, business owner, or something else?
Ellen Cagnassola says
I think the definition of an entreprenuer is someone who has outlandish ideas gets laughed at,and laughs harder.
Hello gravity is real and the world isn’t flat!
Warm regards Issac & Chris
Brenda Tello Horton says
Great Post Becky! I am not a big FAN of labels because they seem to put limits on who we are, however I understand the need to simplify our lives by categorizing people and things. Having stated that, I would call myself a business woman.
I believe it’s all about the mindset. Earlier in my career, I was an employee, then I became self-employed. As a solopreneur, I had no plan or intentions of growing my one-person business. Well, that got old quickly, so then I joined a franchise company and leveraged the power of systems, automation, and support.
Later, I had the opportunity to become a founding business partner with a software start-up. We are growing the company much like a “Brick and Mortar” business — no VC funding. The mindset I have is ownership, profits, and responsible growth, which means that I am not willing to become profitable at the expense of the planet or people. I am building a business that will support the lifestyle I envision and at the same time serve humanity in a positive way.
Keep up the great work!
Becky McCray says
Michelle, sounds like you think there is not all that much difference in terms, as long as you are doing what you love.
Christine, you’re a great example of someone turning unemployment into opportunity.
Andy, I do introduce myself as a small business owner, especially locally. “I’m a business owner in this community and that means you should listen to me!” (OK, not like that, but you know what I mean.)
Michael, you’re looking for how people actually think of themselves. I think that is tough to get at, because we don’t fit these old patterns.
Ellen, I love your note from Isaac and Chris. Classic!
Rod, I appreciate your perspective as someone new to small business ownership. The entrepreneurial spirit you bring is your work to feature local artists, to use new media to market your business, and to bring new products to Alva.
Brenda, you certainly have a variety of experience. Glad you are focusing on such positive means. Tony Hseih and Zappos proved that “social experiments” can work.
Patrick Allmond says
Definitely entrepreneur. Or maybe it is called business ADHD :)
I use the E word because I am always looking to build a bigger and better mousetrap – especially in terms of software that I develop. I always see new things that could be developed. I look at other peoples work and my jaw drops and it inspires me to try new and different things. It is not uncommon for me to fall asleep at 2am in front of the computer doing research on a new idea to see if it is feasible and what it would take to implement it.
Deb Brown says
Entrepreneur — rhymes with manure. And some days, we’re all full of it.
I’ve been starting businesses since I was 8 and wanted to write a poetry book. I sold ads to pay for it. No kidding.
I’m the psychologically unemployable one – mostly because my monkey mind runs one hundred miles a minute and I see the future before most others.
I’ve figured out how to combine volunteering with social media to create a workable model – for me. I even get paid once and awhile!
Thanks Becky – for putting me with such great company in a post and for being my friend. Like attracts like you know!
Rod Murrow says
I think the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ for business owners may equate to the ‘creative spark’ in artists and musicians. Trying to put your soul into your work, to create a business or a product that is unique, or trying to do something besides “the same old thing” – to put your own ‘spin’ on it. That’s creativity!
Becky McCray says
Patrick, I think you have the creative spark Rod is talking about!
Deb, I love this story about you selling ads for your poetry book. That’s perfect!
Michael Martine @remarkablogger just said this to me about our discussion:
“Connotations matter. Entrepreneur sounds more exciting than business owner. Owners just own things, they don’t do anything. :-) “
Lots of food for thought in this post. I have to admit that while I don’t like labels, small business owner and entrepreuner are two completely different things. Entrepreneurs love starting business, taking risks, Typically they are involved in starting many different companies — always something new.
Small business owners have passion about their specific business. They are passionate about what it is their company does, not just passionate about business in general.
Norman Evans says
The fact that this discussion, and many like it, is happening suggests to me that we are in the process of redefining “entrepreneur”. When I started building companies, nobody cared too much and the term tended to mean any one of the definitions given above. I think we’re starting to recognise entrepreneurs as the creative innovators in business establishment (as indicated by Rod). By definition, that’ll require small business owners, franchisees, and others to adopt different terms to describe themselves (perhaps “small business owner” and “franchisee”!!). I think it’s a good thing that those who create most of the new wealth in our society through innovation (commercial and technical) get identified… even if the term being used has to be rehabilitated from some of the derogatory connotations it has been given (eg: the ‘greedy businessman’).
Marsha Collier says
I have a problem with Chris’ quote: “I often make the joke that we accidentally identify as entrepreneur instead of “not really employable.”
An entrepreneur is “highly-employable,” but they choose to take the step forward and put their own smarts to work for themselves.
When I started writing about e-commerce in 1998, it was a brave soul that started an online business, and those who succeeded and support their families from home knew the rewards of hard work.
An entrepreneur is driven to succeed, but on their own terms. I hold all small businesspeople in the highest of esteem.
Becky McCray says
Jenny, so you see it as completely attitudinal? A liquor store owner could be either a small business owner or an entrepreneur, based on their passions?
Norman, sounds like you’ve been around for lots of change in the business world. I think you’ve hit on an important point: most of our online business people are part of a commercial innovation. That’s why we don’t fit the old pattern.
Marsha, I think some entrepreneurs aren’t great employees. Richard Titus of Associated Northcliffe Digital Ltd used a phrase that stuck with me when he spoke at SXSW about whether you can teach entrepreneurship. He said you can teach some of the core skills of entrepreneurship, but other internal drivers also play a role. Many of our best entrepreneurs have the same set of drivers that make them a rubbish employee, he said.
More than once in my own career my entrepreneurial drives have proven to be my downfall as an employee. And this is where I come back to agreeing with you: I’m “highly employable,” but I’m a pain as an employee! Thanks for weighing in, Marsha.
Susan (5 Minutes For Mom) says
Interesting discussion here… I tend to avoid labels but I would agree that I am an entrepreneur.
Andy Smalley says
What an interesting topic…I kind of see myself as both.
I see the difference between entrepreneur and small business owner simply being whether someone is proactive or reactive about their business.
A small business owner is typically someone out to serve…and transitions the business based on customer demand and/or needs, being reactive.
An entrepreneur creates the need, and is more proactive in getting to market.
Another way to look at it is by answering that proverbial business question: Do you work IN your business, or ON your business. The person working in the business can be considered a small business owner. The person working ON the business is an entrepreneur.
Becky McCray says
Susan, here’s to the entrepreneurial spirit!
Andy, you are the second person to mention working ON the business vs. IN the business: another person DM’d me about it on Twitter. Interesting.
Chris Brogan says
@Marsha – not ALL entrepreneurs fit my description. But if you did a quick twitter survey, you’d get a LOT of people saying they were entrepreneurs, when what they really mean is that they have trouble working for others. A generalization, and an over-simplification, but to me, the classic definition: “someone who organizes a business venture and assumes the risk for it,” means that there has to be “business.” For instance, a software application isn’t business. It’s just an app. Ditto a website. Right?
Marsha Collier says
Becky: I am a pain as an employee. Tribune Company had to set up a separate department for me to run, but the revenue was off the charts. It depends whether the company will think “out of the box” with an entrepreneurial employee.
Chris: Agreed. A lot of people “say” they are experts too. Re the software app? That’s a creative enterprise. But starting a software business, taking on distribution and sales is the true venue for an entrepreneur.
Becky McCray says
Chris and Marsha, thanks for the follow up comments.