Webster’s Dictionary defines an entrepreneur as “Someone who organizes a business venture and assumes the risk for it.” Dictionary.com defines entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, esp. a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” As with most definitions for entrepreneurs there is room for interpretation. Although, it seems there is one common thread in all the definitions — “risk”. Currently, there is ongoing debate about the difference between an entrepreneur and a small business owner. Are they the same? Are they different? Probably the best way to determine this is to compare the basic traits of each.
It can be argued that most entrepreneurs are innovators and offer something new to the marketplace whereas a small business owner typically replicates business based on what they enjoy or are good at. Entrepreneurs when opening a business dream about how BIG they can create the business to be, a business owner thinks about what is big ENOUGH. Entrepreneurs are leaders in thought and creativity whereas small business owners are great managers of what they are skilled to do. Entrepreneurs look for excitement to meet the next new challenge with the intent that they will grow. Small Businesses often seek the safe way to grow to ensure their future with limited risk.
As Michael Gerber in “The E-Myth Mastery” discusses the difference between who works in the business and who works on the business the divergence between entrepreneurs and small business owners escalates. Small business owners want to be their own boss, do what they love, do it well, and make money. Entrepreneurs want to create, they want to be independent, they want to create wealth, they don’t see limits, they have focus, they have determination. While the differences seem powerfully distinct they are not always easy to see at first. Many small business owners have passion, they have focus, they have dreams, they desire wealth. The fork in the road is in degrees. Degrees of risk, desire, creativity, passion, vision for the future all emphasize the distinction between entrepreneurs and small business owners.
One final key is as basic as the terminology itself. If one wishes to own a small business then that is what it will be — small. It will offer satisfaction, a livelihood, hopefully financial independence, and freedom of expression. When you speak to entrepreneurs there is always a growth goal. The company is going somewhere — above all, not staying small. The entrepreneur may not stay with it the whole way, they are fine with letting go and moving on to the next challenge. They will stay long enough to have made it what they imagined it to be and that is enough of that. Small business owners see their business as a legacy, something to own and to share. Entrepreneurs see their enterprise as something to grow and sell so they can meet the next great challenge. The definition of “entrepreneur” then exists in the heart and mind of the individual. A restaurant can be a small business but turn it into a franchise and that was done by an entrepreneur. It boils down to a type of person NOT a type of business. What type are you?