Entrepreneur vs Manager, and why can’t you be both?

Entrepreneur vs manager

Entrepreneur vs manager? While many business owners are not even an entrepreneur, let alone a successful entrepreneur, the debate gets even more troubled when the topic shifts to entrepreneur vs professional managers.

Of course, if you have seen the great movie ‘Steve Jobs (2015)‘ it looks quite clear that the ‘typical’ entrepreneur is not a manager. With Apple, that responsible task of managing the company was left to ex Pepsi CEO John Sculley. Vice versa, one could also ask the opposite question: is a manager an entrepreneur? Well, let’s have a closer look and analysis of their personality and mindsets.

The many entrepreneur coaches I speak to daily report that their clients struggle with managerial skills. They find it challenging to manage their staff. The growth of the company, also demands the development of the small business owner.

Role change during the growth process of an entrepreneur is one of the issues that regularly is at the top of the list in coaching sessions.

However, can a small business owner be as good an entrepreneur as a manager? Vice, versa, Is a manager an entrepreneur? How is an entrepreneur different from a manager?

An entrepreneur is not a manager

The role of an entrepreneur is to spot opportunities, set an idea into motion, and accept some form of financial risk. Deciding what the best strategy for the future of the venture considering its chances and threats is. Having a vision for the future and make sure funding is present when it is needed the most. The entrepreneur is focusing on what is happening outside of the firm. For the entrepreneur, setting up a business is easy. The typical entrepreneurial thinking style of the pioneer is the opposite of that of the manager (see below, an example of an entrepreneurial mindset profile taken with the entrepreneurial mindset tool). It is close to the role of the entrepreneur.

E-Scan Thinking Styles of an entrepreneur

For the entrepreneur setting up a business is a risk he’s willing to take. In the early phase of a company, the business startup, everything may not go as it should. But who cares if eventually, the innovation seems to work out. That’s the reward for a risk taker. However, there is a certain point in time that the company requires a different role. You now have to grow to the size where you can appoint a good manager. If, of course, there is enough money to employ someone. Nevertheless, professional management comes into play, one way or the other.

Many entrepreneurs, especially those in a growth process, regularly struggle with this organizational turning point. The growth of the company, the employees – especially the new ones – force them to come up with an answer to this pressing issue. An entrepreneur has a different responsibility than a manager. That makes both roles different.

A manager is not an entrepreneur

The manager’s role is to guide the ongoing operation to deliver the products and services smoothly, timely, and efficiently. Directing people and making sure people perform to the best of their abilities. The leader is focused on what is happening inside the company. For the manager running a business fits like a glove.

It’s clear the manager has a different way of thinking. Although very important for any company, the thinking style of a manager is in need of an existing situation. A situation that needs organization, ordening. Something to get their hands in. They have more difficulty with new situations where nothing is concrete. It is the opposite of the entrepreneurial thinking style of the pioneer (see an example of an entrepreneurial mindset profile).

E-Scan Thinking Styles of a manager

Why you can’t be both entrepreneur and manager, or can you?

Entrepreneur vs manager. Although there is a main difference between the two, their entrepreneurial thinking styles are of much more importance. Because you can have a true entrepreneur with the Manager’s thinking style.


Yes, I am sorry, to make it even more complex, yet it is important to add nuance to the discussion. The entrepreneurial personality defines an entrepreneur as someone who sees opportunities, exploits them, and creates value for himself and others. So, an owner of an enterprise who is constantly looking to adapt to his – ever quicker changing – environment with new ideas and ways to fulfill the needs of people, you can call an enterprising firm owner. An entrepreneur.

Now, comes the hard and possibly confusing part. That entrepreneurial owner of a business could very well have a thinking style of a manager. That’s his natural way of thinking. To create order in the chaos. When the company is in the mature phase, the manager thinking style may very well be exactly what the firm needs. Yet, what makes them entrepreneurial? Maybe he is not the one who sees the opportunities, but his coach or spouse does. He has learned how to complement his ‘flaws’ and make the best out of them. That, in its essence, is the entrepreneurial mindset. Even if you have no knowledge or skill, yet you know how to organize those skills and attitudes around you, you are practicing entrepreneurship: create value for yourself and others by seeing and acting on opportunities in the market (you are in or want to be in).

Only in very rare cases you see an entrepreneur – enterprising business owner – with the thinking style combination of manager and pioneer or innovator. In fact, it only happens to 10% of the population of entrepreneurs. You could call it entrepreneurial management.

E-Scan results

Why you have to grow as an entrepreneur if your company grows.

It isn’t easy to grow your business without growing as an entrepreneur yourself.

If you do not grow as an entrepreneur, your company will only experience quantitative growth. So, that’s more of the same. More turnover, more hours, more employees. That only means, more people are doing the same ‘trick.’ But that doesn’t necessarily generate more profit. More often, less profit or even loss.

Most entrepreneurs think this is how they can grow their business. However, the company quickly reaches a limit. Entrepreneurs often do not see those limits coming. Only when you grow as an entrepreneur yourself, as a person, do you start to see how you can and should do things differently. Work smarter, more focused, doing less but that is twice as good. Only then, there is more room to see opportunities again, work differently, and delegating tasks instead of doing it yourself.

Learning Tips

First of all, it doesn’t matter if you are an employee, an owner-manager, an employed business manager of a large organization. that is just your function title. Much more important is what your entrepreneurial thinking style is. What type of work, tasks, and responsibilities suit you best? You should position yourself in that type of situation. Even a professional manager of a government organization, for example, can have a pioneer thinking style. It is just his function title. So, don’t confuse someone’s job title with his or her entrepreneurial set of characteristics and entrepreneurship thinking style.

What can you do with this as an entrepreneur?

  • check how self-aware you are. For this, you can use the Self Awareness Index within the E-Scan.
  • discuss with others – who know you well – which of the 4 thinkings styles suit you best
  • find out what your true entrepreneurial thinking style is

What can you do with this as a business coach?

  • help the owner with finding out what their true entrepreneurial thinking style is
  • make sure their self-awareness is accurate
  • discover with the owner what the best personal strategy is to secure the future of his or her business

Don’t judge a management book by its cover

Lester Fuller and Edwin Rolfe (slightly edited by Dr. Martijn Driessen)