Small business owner or entrepreneur?


Many people often use the terms ‘small business owner’ and ‘entrepreneur’ interchangeably, but they are actually not the same thing. I have heard small business owners referring to themselves as entrepreneurs and also entrepreneurs referring to themselves as small business owners. When I correct them by explaining the difference many of them say that they were not aware that there was a difference at all. Although there is a legitimate difference between the two, sometimes the lines between them are blurred and it makes it tough for someone to fit a specific category.

Small business owners are people who own a business and have no plans or strategy to try to turn that small business into a larger operation. The nature of the business is not important even though it is often characterized to be a convenience store or a single franchise location of a restaurant or dry cleaners. The term ‘mom and pop shop’ is often used to illustrate a small retail business. However, a small business owner does not have to be in retail. It has more to do with future growth plans and the level of complacency in the business owners themselves, rather than the type of business it is. That is why it is sometimes hard to categorize people and businesses.

If someone owns a laundromat and earns a $70,000 per year income and is satisfied with that amount and therefore has no plans to open another location or launch additional services like pick-up and delivery for corporate accounts, etc…Then that person would be considered to be a small business owner. However, if that person has plans to open more locations under the same name and hopes to build a chain of laundromats across a city because he/she is not satisfied with the income from one location and wants to earn 10 or 20 times that amount, as well as, have a number of employees and corporate accounts, then that person is an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs do not become complacent once they reach an average or slightly above average level of success or wealth. They tend to have plans, strategies and aspirations of becoming a big player in the industry or field they operate in. They also tend to want to have more responsibility and have a large footprint geographically (either physical or online).

One is not better or worse than the other (even though the image above suggests that it is) because everyone has their own situations, past accomplishments and upbringing. So, for the 60 year old couple that owns a convenient store and is satisfied with their income, being a small business owner is exactly what they want and need. They do not have the potential to become as wealthy as an entrepreneur from that business but, perhaps they have no desire to be. Many successful entrepreneurs do not put money as their number one driving force. It is usually one of the driving forces but, there are many other reasons why someone would be driven to try to attain more business success and growth and as long as both the small business owner and the entrepreneur are happy with what they are doing, then that is all that really matters.