What's The Difference Between an Entrepreneur and a Business Owner? entrepreneur

I ‘ve been thinking about what makes an entrepreneur ever since I read in Rework that there ‘s no such thing as an entrepreneur. Their argument is that the activity of entrepreneurship should not sound like an elite club.

Rework is a great book (see my Amazon review) but I don ‘t really buy this argument for a few reasons. The first is that I believe in elitism! But my main reason is that I think that it is vital to distinguish between someone who is a business owner (BOs) and someone who has an entrepreneurial mindset.

This isn ‘t a theory-based distinction. Its one that a grown on me from watching many Business Owners in action, sometimes as a customer, sometimes as a consultant. It ‘s not even based on a clear distinction between sectors. I ‘ve witnessed an entrepreneurial spirit in the voluntary sector when it has been spectacularly lacking in the private.

What Distinguishes an Entrepreneur From a Business Owner?

Here ‘s my beginners’ list of differences so you can tell one species from the other. Please feel free to add to it in the comments below.

  • Business Owners whinge about the competition setting up close to them or otherwise edging in on ‘their ‘ territory. Entrepreneurs use competitors to test their product, refine their service and learn about the market.
  • Business Owners expect the business to come to them merely by existing, or applying the use of passive forms of marketing. Entrepreneurs go out and get the customers and are active in building up relationships and contact networks.
  • Business Owners view the customer as a necessary evil on the road to making a buck. Entrepreneurs see it their life mission to help the customer by solving their problems, even pre-emptively. When customer needs change, they listen and adapt.
  • Business Owners build their service around what they want, what their little dream is, and hold onto it for dear life even in the face of universal indifference. Entrepreneurs are prepared to ditch their dearest idea when the profit margin shows up blank.
  • Business Owners are afraid of change. They want to keep things are they are. But the market is never still. Entrepreneurs see innovation not as an optional extra for brainstorming events, but part of what they do and have to do on a daily basis.
  • Business Owners think only in hierarchical or traditional ways of business structuring. Entrepreneurs are instinctively flexible, using freelancers, outsourcing, online tools and the rest to keep margins mean and bureaucracy lean.

I exaggerate for effect. To use a classic Allen phrase, There is some overlap in Venn diagram terms. I do exaggerate… but not by much!

So, which are you then?

More to the point, which am I?

Image credit: thenext28days.