Are You an Entrepreneur, or a Business Owner?

Being an entrepreneur = freedom and flexibility.

This may strike you as a trick question. I mean, they’re the same thing, right? Well, to me there is a world of difference between them, and this is one thing you want to be clear about as soon as possible, because it can make a huge difference to your happiness and fulfilment.

The crucial defining factor is this: business owners work in their business, while entrepreneurs work on their business. This is not a subtle distinction. In vs. On is a massive, reality-altering concept. For detailed reasoning, check out Michael Gerber’s E-Myth books, and Tim Ferris’s take on it in The Four Hour Workweek.

And ask yourself the following:

  • Do you love getting down and dirty, working in your shop every day?
  • Do you want to be responsible for all aspects of your business, and have the business depend on you to solve any problems that will inevitably arise?
  • Do you want to be there first thing in the morning, and be the last one locking up at night?
  • Do you want your income to be linked to the time you put in (trading dollars for hours)?
  • Do you not trust anyone else to handle financials, hiring, marketing, policy creation, or other crucial tasks?
  • Do you see yourself running this business until you retire, and then passing it on to one of your children?
  • Are you happy with owning just one business?

If you answered yes to most of those questions (or think you would answer yes once you get your business going), you are a business owner. Which is fabulous. I salute you. And most of the advice I give for entrepreneurs applies to you as well. But dear readers, it should come as no surprise that I am an entrepreneur. Always have been. And I believe the world needs more entrepreneurs, which is why I’m writing these posts, and writing a book to help people become the very best entrepreneurs.

So what does it mean to be an entrepreneur?

  • Entrepreneurs build businesses that can be sold for a profit, thus making them more money than having simply operated the business, and creating opportunity for other people to become business owners (or hopefully entrepreneurs).
  • Entrepreneurs empower other people to work in their business so they are free to operate at a high level, pushing their company forward through vision and innovation.
  • Entrepreneurs are rarely satisfied with one business – once they get a taste of success, they want to expand, grow, and try new things.
  • Entrepreneurs want the business to operate independently of them or their time. They want to create an entity that exists without them.
  • Entrepreneurs think big – they want to change the world. They see opportunities and create value for others.
  • Entrepreneurs have fun while they’re working. They are working in areas they are passionate about and are strongly footed in their own personal areas of brilliance. Working at a high level to build their business empire feels more like play than work.
  • Entrepreneurs don’t punch a clock. They work when they want, sometimes at midnight, sometimes at 8am. They know the buck stops with them, and they take that as a moral responsibility to get things done…but healthy entrepreneurs understand the importance of leaving plenty of time for the other things in life that matter to them. For me it’s family, friends, community, fitness, travel, the outdoors, art, education and philanthropy. By engaging in these other areas frequently, I recharge my battery and bring a higher quality of “me” to my businesses.

Doesn’t that sound like more fun? Maybe it also sounds scarier. But if you get a thrill from reading that second list, know this: you can do it. If you truly have the desire, you can make it happen. And I believe the world needs what you have to offer. So what are you waiting for? Time to step up and change the world.


5 Responses to Are You an Entrepreneur, or a Business Owner?
  1. Jayne Kopp
    July 25, 2011 | 10:12 pm

    Hi Natalie, what a pleasure to meet you my ‘BC Sister!”

    To be honest with your Natalie, I have a few trates of both!!

    I owned a brick and mortar business for 15 years and it went ‘big’ .. I did sell my shares… to my ex to be honest. Albeit for a profit I suppose. I loved it, but I sure worked my ‘hiney’ off.

    I too have always been an entrepreneur at heart though, starting in my teens with small business from my parents basement.

    This last six years have been a series of ups and downs though, and that’s what flicked my switch to be more like the entrepreneur you describe.

    I love working on building, I too am writing a book. My main goal is to empower others. (actually that is my primary focus), and I always have my eyes on expansion and branching.

    I guess its the ridiculous work ethic that can trap me in the ‘work’ mode, even though I do truly love what I do.

    I loved your distinction because it surely helps tweak the mind to work smarter and not harder.

    I have been meaning to get Tim Ferris’ book for sometime now. I love him.. just need to read his book!! :-)

    Wonderful post. I am pleased to meet you!


    • admin
      July 26, 2011 | 9:42 am

      Sounds like we have a lot in common, Jayne – it’s a pleasure to have you here!

      Obviously you have a lot of hard-won experience and wisdom in business, which I’m sure goes a long way with your coaching. Nothing wrong with work ethic… I have no doubt it has served you well. But when you’re spending your time working in your area of brilliance, where your passion and skills are, it doesn’t feel like work so much, does it? The problem I see is when business owners bog themselves down trying to do everything, and they wind up feeling burnt out and hating the business they were once so excited about.

      I look forward to hearing more from you, about your book and your expansion efforts!

  2. Natalie,
    Like Jayne, I too have previously had a brick and mortar business. It was a mid to high end remodeling company. I really enjoyed it.
    However, what I am seeing is that beneath that is this entrepreneurial spirit that must be satisfied.

    Therefore as a missionary family living in Thailand, I am also pursuing an online business at the same time.

    So, I would have to say that yes, the entrepreneur list very much rings with me.

    Nice blog you have here.
    I am looking forward to more of your articles in the future.


  3. Marcus Baker
    July 29, 2011 | 7:30 am

    Hi Natalie,

    I enjoyed reading your post and the excellent way in which you contrasted being a business owner versus an entrepreneur.

    Just like Jayne and Martin I have also owned a brick and mortar business and I worked far harder in that then when I was employed.

    I think the essential difference for me between a business owner and an entrepreneur is that of vision. Entrepreneurs can conceive of bigger things happening and so they attract what they believe is possible.

    Great post. Thanks.


    • admin
      July 30, 2011 | 1:19 pm

      Thank you Marcus – so true, it’s all about vision. And I say, the grander the vision, the better!

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