Mar 18, 2016

The Differences between an Entrepreneur and a Small Business Owner

Successful entrepreneurs are lionized across America. On a national level, we idolize well known leaders like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ray Kroc and Arthur Blank.  

Locally, we heap admiration on the community dry cleaner who opened up a dozen locations and supports all the local baseball teams, and the grocery store owner who built a five-chain supermarket chain that took on the national grocers and won. 

Yet there are many more small businesses who never open a second location.  The McDonalds franchise owner.  The one person insurance agent.  The local car repair shop.  These owners view themselves and their businesses very differently from entrepreneurs. 

These stark differences are highlighted in the below comparison:


  • Sales oriented
  • Goal: Be as big as can be 
  • Focus:  Calculated Risk Taking
  • Top Question Each Day:  Which opportunities should I be pursuing today to grow my business?

Small Business Owner 

  • Operations oriented  
  • Goal: Stay in Business 
  • Focus: Risk Management  
  • Top Question Each Day: How do I get though day without being hurt, hurting anyone else, or getting sued.?

Why do these differences matter? They profoundly impact the ways service providers should approach their prospects. Selling to an entrepreneur means selling your ability to help them grow; selling to a small business owner means selling your ability to protect their investment (and livelihood). 

This distinction is also very important from a service standpoint. For example, a CPA firm serving an entrepreneurial leader should have the capabilities to answer questions related to his / her growth initiatives: taxes, incentives, purchase accounting, etc. The same firm working for the small business owner probably can assign a fixed resource to manage the account for the duration of the relationship - and would not need more varied expertise. 

To sum up, the next time you find yourself approaching a prospective CEO as a potential customer or partner, ask yourself if (s)he is an entrepreneur or small business owner. It can profoundly affect your future relationship - and your bottom line!


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