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4 ways to tell if you should be an entrepreneur or a business builder

What separates an entrepreneur from a business builder? Here are four science-backed ways to know which role you're most likely to succeed in.

by Vivienne Egan

You might think that people who start and run businesses are similar people with similar things driving them. That perhaps the difference between a startup founder who achieves venture success and someone who works on their business solidly over many years is difficult to pin down.

But findings from our recent study show that while talent and skill most certainly have their own place in business, what separates an entrepreneur (people who build, scale and exit a business within five years) from a business builder (folk who steadily build their businesses over a period of 10 or more years) is more to do with personal motivation—that is, what brings you energy, drive and satisfaction in business.

There are many similarities between entrepreneurs and business builders. Both are highly motivated to turn their ideas into action and are more focused on the big picture than the general population. Both demonstrate a high amount of indifference to the rules of others and prefer not to impose their own rules on the team.

However, there are some subtle but striking differences in the motivations of entrepreneurs and business owners which can help predict whether you’re more likely to succeed as a founder or a business builder.

1. If you focus on the dollars and cents...

While both entrepreneurs and business builders have a higher focus on money than your average Joe, an entrepreneur’s focus is found to be almost 20% higher than a business builder. They prioritize the commercial and financial side of the business—like profit and loss, revenue, debt, margins, and budgeting—far more than their business builders counterparts.

2. If you’re hung up on structure...

Business builders prioritize structure slightly less than the average member of the workforce—that is, they’re slightly less motivated to plan than most. But that’s nothing compared to entrepreneurs, whose focus on structure is almost non-existent. Pretty handy when it comes to the agile approach favored by many startups.

3. If you’re a rulebook rebel...

Do you prefer sticking to the script, refining procedures to replicate results? Or perhaps you’re more motivated to rip up the rulebook and try new procedures every time? The former is typical of the business builder, slowly perfecting how things are done to be assured that value will be maintained. The latter is a motivation seen in entrepreneurs, who will try lots of things to see what works.

Low focus on procedure is essential for agile growth and experimentation in the early stages of a business. However, as a business matures a focus on procedure becomes more important to your success, so ensuring someone in your team is keen to ‘cross the ts’ is critical as your startup matures.

4. If you welcome other’s input...

Both entrepreneurs and business builders have a low preference for external references when compared to the general working population—that is, neither is strongly motivated to seek input from experts or stakeholders on their ideas, decisions, and strategies. Importantly though, entrepreneurs are even less inclined to seek an external opinion than business builders. Their vision and self-belief are powerful enough to drive them forward.

That said, as a business matures, a greater focus on external reference is found to correlate with positive outcomes.  As you scale, the need for experts in specific areas such as marketing, production or talent management, becomes critical to success.

So… am I an entrepreneur or a business builder?

Well, that really depends on your natural inclinations. We work best when following our natural preferences and businesses flourish when their founders have their eyes open to their potential blind spots.

But whatever your motivations are initially, becoming aware of your blind spots and talents to optimize is the first step to becoming the type of entrepreneur you aspire to be - or building the business of your dreams. The power is yours!

Reckon you're an entrepreneur? Find out more about how the Finger for Success assessment can help you here.

More of a business builder? Get the inside scoop on how Fingerprint for success can help you here.

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