Entrepreneurs Vs. Managers: Which Are You?

Both entrepreneurs and managers can be successful, but which type is best for your small business?
October 07, 2011

Many believe the classic small business maxim that "Successful entrepreneurs know their weaknesses as well as their strengths." Self-aware people are well-positioned for success, and when it comes to being self-aware I have noticed two distinct types of business owners: entrepreneurs and managers.

We all start the same. In the beginning, everyone is a hustler. You're a fire starter—you have to be. You can't bootstrap an idea into a profitable business without a little elbow grease.

Things start to change, however, once you accomplish a small amount of success. When you cross that valley of the unknown and realize that you're actually going to stay in business...then it gets interesting.

Entrepreneurs vs. managers

Entrepreneurs are go-getters. After they build a business, they are ready to push the envelope once again.

Day-to-day operations bore them to a certain degree. Sure, they are interested in continuing to grow their first company, but in their mind, the daily grind of business is something to be delegated.

Entrepreneurs start companies because they want to change things. They expose gaps in the market. They are always moving on to the next idea.

Once entrepreneurs build one profitable business, they say, "Watch me. I did this once and now I'm going to do it again."

Managers believe in the business they built so much that they want to cultivate it on a daily basis. Once their first business is profitable, they view it as their personal responsibility to take it to the next level.

Once managers build one profitable business, they say, "We're profitable. Now watch me take this worldwide."

You can be successful either way

Let's get one thing straight: both entrepreneurs and managers can be wildly successful with their businesses.

It's not about one style being better than the other, it's about choosing the style that's best for you. I'll give you an example using two of the most successful business men of our time.

Richard Branson vs. Steve Jobs

Branson is an entrepreneur. His Virgin brand now encompasses over 400 different businesses. 400! When he succeeds with one business idea, he is on to the next. In fact, the following quote from Branson is one of the reasons I wrote this article.

"An entrepreneur is not a manager. An entrepreneur is someone who is great at conceiving ideas, starting ideas, building ideas...and then handing them over to really good managers to run the business."

Steve Jobs was a manager. Last month, Apple had the largest market cap of any company in the S&P 500. Jobs built a $300+ billion dollar business by operating in a manner very different from Branson.

Jobs was famously a micromanager and a perfectionist. Employees have noted him calling out tiny details in design changes (all of which had to be approved by him), grammatical and spelling errors in company documents, and so on. He would even answer customer service complaints as the CEO on occassion.

Which are you?

Branson and Jobs have both been incredibly successful at building their businesses, but they have done so in very different ways.

For some of us, being a manager is the path to success. For others, being an entrepreneur is the best bet.

If you're an entrepreneur, then keep building businesses. If you're a manager, then focus on a single subject matter and become brilliant. This is about finding your strength.

Which type is best for your small business? More importantly, which one are you?

James Clear is the founder of Passive Panda. He is an award-winning writer on business strategy and entrepreneurship and has delivered speeches in the United States, the U.K. and Switzerland.