Small Business Owner vs. Entrepreneur: Which One Are You?

Small Business Owner vs. Entrepreneur: Which One Are You? Zoom meeting with David Daigle showing presentation including Wingman avatar.

By David Daigle, Crew Chief at Wingman Direct Marketing 

This week is Calgary Small Business Week. Yesterday, through the Calgary Chamber of Commerce,  I had the privilege of presenting a workshop to fellow small business leaders on the topic of Marketing Strategy: Back to the Basics. It was an extremely enjoyable moment for me as I got to pay it forward to other small business owners and entrepreneurs. We had a great dialogue on strategy versus tactics and how if you don’t have a strong strategy foundation, your tactics are doomed to fail. 

In an email I received after the workshop, I was asked how to become an entrepreneur. They saw that I was running what looks like a successful small business and assumed that I was an entrepreneur. This question made me stop in my tracks. I know I am a small business owner (SBO) and am doing it to the very best of my abilities, but, am I an entrepreneur? I have likely used the two labels inter-changeably. So, I replied, “Do what you love.” At the end of the day, not everyone is in business for the grandeur or to create the next big thing. Some of us do what we love and just want to earn an income without having to report to a boss. 

I did some research and a fair amount of self-reflection to determine that I am NOT likely an entrepreneur in its truest form. However, I have several traits that meet the criteria of both entrepreneur and SBO. 

Small Business Owner vs. Entrepreneur. Below, I have isolated what I feel are some key factors in the distinction between the two terms: 

Criteria Small Business Owner (SBO) Entrepreneur 
Subset Not all business owners are entrepreneurs. Almost all entrepreneurs are business owners. 
Risk Tend to go with what they know. They are more risk averse. Typically avoids the high stress associated with high risk. Big risk taker. Risk is part of the appeal. 
Big Picture Thinker Has a shorter-term focus on running business operations. Visionary. They think many steps into the future. Often working on plans well into next year and the year after. 
Innovation Knows what works for their business. They usually stick with that because they know it will bring them continued future success. Always looking for the new thing and constantly researching. They can’t get enough of what’s new and hot. They are often at the forefront of huge movements. 
Scalability Sentimental when it comes to their company and wouldn’t dream of handing it over to someone else—unless that someone was family. They love where they are and aren’t looking to jump to the next big idea.  Most dream that their company will become huge in the future. They don’t necessarily want to run the day-to-day and may aspire to someday sell their business. Their enterprise is an asset they can unload and move onto the next adventure. 
Passion Very passionate about what they do. Often doing it to support themselves and their families, as well as having the freedom to work for themselves. Very passionate about what they do. They want to change the world, make their mark and be heard. It’s not enough for them to be successful.  Money is not always what they’re after—they want to make a big difference. 
Time Focus In the moment. Futuristic. 
Service/Product Offerings Consistent. Innovative. 
Project Focus Linear. One project at a time. Multiple balls in the air at all times. 

Reviewing the criteria and distinctions above, you and I might identify as a small business owner if: 

  • We have a solid idea that will solve a problem and that we can create a business around. 
  • Quitting our job to make more money or to free up time for non-work pursuits is a key goal. 
  • We don’t spend too much time thinking ahead. 
  • We are risk averse. 

Conversely, we might be an entrepreneur if: 

  • We have a head filled with ideas of how we can help people solve a myriad of problems. We may even be figuring out how to solve them all at once. 
  • We are passionate about a lot of things simultaneously. 
  • We are constantly coming up with new products and services we can sell. 
  • We love our vision for the future and get excited every time a new idea pops up. 

As it turns out, I am a bit of both. I am moderately risk averse because I am running a business to put food on the table. However, I am also very interested in new processes and ideas to do more with less. I like to look several moves ahead so I don’t become complacent within the day-to-day. 

When it comes down to it, some of us are more cut out to be a SBO and others fall into the entrepreneur category—and that’s okay. The world needs plenty of both. Not every company needs to turn into the huge success that entrepreneurs often see in their minds. Some are better left small and that’s often where they stay.  

Which one are you? Which one do you want to be? To be successful, it still comes down to what I replied yesterday—do what you love. If you’re thinking about starting a company or you are already a business owner, consider the above and really think about what you want your company to be.  

You may realize that you’re not the entrepreneur you thought you were and that you’re more like a small business owner, or the opposite. Either way, it’s important to focus on what you want and plan the steps on how to get there.  

Have you decided? Small Business Owner vs. Entrepreneur: Which One Are You? Once you know where you’re going, you’ll need a plan and the right people to get you there. Check out our Business Plans to start, and then Contact Us when you’re ready for the expertise of a Wingman. As always, we got your back!  

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