Facets of Entrepreneurship

There is an interesting article in BusinessWeek this week talking about the differences between entrepreneurs.  The question is whether every small business owner is an entrepreneur.  Some say yes, other definitions require significant innovation.  I think that the conclusion of two classes of entrepreneurs, replicative entrepreneurs and innovative entrepreneurs provides the most clarity and understanding.

Lately, I have been thinking along another path related to the practice of entrepreneurship.  There are a lot of entrepreneurs who are totally invested (monetarily and in all other ways) in their great idea.  They nurture it and grow it and get others to get excited by the idea.  It is all about the idea.  Now, over time, the idea might grow and become something more, but the key is the idea.  We think of Henry Ford, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs and Sam Walton. All successes, but focused on the grand innovative idea. These entrepreneurs typically are thought of as evangelists for the idea.

Another group of entrepreneurs are excited by the chase.  Sure the idea has to be reasonable, but the fun is to grow a business, in whatever field currently is interesting.  More times than not, the big thing here is the team.  The team is why the entrepreneur gets up in the morning and makes that extra effort to sell the customer on the deal.  People who are excited by this typically have a strong skill set in a particular area and need to rely on others to work on areas that they are not particularly well suited to. It surely matters less to these entrepreneurs what the specific “idea” is, as long as it is interesting and they have a strong, committed team to work with.

Either way, we have entrepreneurs who are building businesses. The key thing for the entrepreneur to figure out is whether they are the “idea guy” or the team builder.  Both can be successful given the right environment. However, if you try to work in an environment that is not suited for you, you are asking for trouble; trouble for the business and trouble for your professional growth.

Find out where your strengths lie and focus on finding the right opportunities on which to concentrate.

3 thoughts on “Facets of Entrepreneurship”

  1. The concept of replicative entrepreneurs and innovative entrepreneurs certainly makes some sense to me.

    However, I can’t agree that small-biz entrepreneurs can be divided into “idea guys” and “team-builders.” In fact, having worked with some 3,000 small businesses and startups, I think those terms overlook a vast category of small businesses: the hundreds of thousands that are operated by a single owner, often in her home. Most of them are replicative businesses, but they’re neither “idea guys” (in fact, I’d guess a majority of them aren’t “guys” at all, but women) nor “team-builders,” since they often have no interest in growing much larger–at least not in the near-term.

    In my opinion, a more accurate way to categorize small businesses might be “those who want to create a job for themselves” and “those who would like to rule the world.” Either of these might be replicative or innovative, but I think small businesses are better described by their owners’ aspirations…at least from the standpoint of a service-provider, who needs only to know how to help them realize those aspirations.

  2. Gregg, good point. I guess that I had already carved out those who want to create a job for themselves and was focusing my attention on those who would like to rule the world. The folks who want a job are probably better described as small business owners, rather than entrepreneurs. Having said that, people can call themselves whatever they want. My point was to argue that entrepreneurs understand their motivation when they look to create the next big thing.

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