What if I could ask you one question… And from your answer tell you if you’d build a business that would never scale, or one that grows to millions or even billions of dollars?
Dan Sullivan was recently interviewed on Ari Meisel’s The Leverage Podcast (episode link).
It was full of some really incredible ideas, principles, and tools — just like you get any time Dan speaks.
But there was one thing that jumped out at me that was really interesting.
Dan made a bold claim…
There are really only two types of entrepreneurs…
And depending on which kind of entrepreneur you are, nearly your entire entrepreneurial future is defined by this one thing.
The first type of entrepreneur almost always build businesses that never really grow beyond them. The other type builds massive businesses that change industries and reach the world.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that one of these is better, and one is worse. I think that’s a subjective judgment. One or the other might be best FOR YOU. (More on that in a minute.) But both play an important role in the broader economy.
So: what type of entrepreneur are you?
Ask yourself this question: “Why did I go into business in the first place?”
Did you go into business to fulfill a personal need? Do you feel a drive to work for yourself? To not have a boss? To have flexibility of schedule, or place? To live a certain lifestyle? Maybe to earn a bit more than you could work in most jobs you were qualified for in the normal work world?
Or did you want to create something big? Did you want to solve a major problem? Transform an industry, or something about the way the world works? Did you want to fulfill a bigger mission?
If the first set of questions feels more familiar, you’re probably a “need entrepreneur.” If the second set matches you, you’re a “want entrepreneur.”
The difference between “need” and “want”…
If you’re someone who went into business to take care of your own needs, first and foremost, your biggest motivation is satisfied when those needs are met. Since usually those needs are limited to living a good live, earning a good income, and gathering sufficient resources to care for yourself and your family, the scope of a need entrepreneur is relatively small.
Need entrepreneurs are often small shops, with one or a few people in the business, managing it day-to-day and making it run.
If you’re someone who went into business to tackle a bigger want, your motivation for scale is probably pretty huge. Most wants of the kind I’m talking about are external motivations, and they are not small — plus they change and develop through time. When you’re a want entrepreneur driven by a bigger purpose, your scope stretches out to your entire industry or even the world.
Want entrepreneurs end up building the big businesses, with hundreds or thousands of employees, that grow well beyond the founder.
Which type are you — and why does it matter?
So the question becomes, what drives you? Why are you in business in the first place? Why did you get in — and what do you wish to accomplish?
No matter which best describes you, you should focus more on being the best YOU that you can be. If you’re a need entrepreneur who judges yourself by want entrepreneur standards, you’ll never be happy — and your business will suffer. Alternately, if you’re a want entrepreneur who gets too comfortable once your needs are met, you’ll under-perform your potential and never find real satisfaction.
I find myself guilty of the second situation, quite a bit. Internally, I know I’m a want entrepreneur. I’m not in business because I want to be rich. Frankly, I was happy on $20,000 per year, and could be again. I do it because I have an internal drive to do big things. Money becomes a way of keeping score, but my real drive is to leave it all on the field, pursuing a bigger purpose.
I know others in marketing and copywriting who are content managing a small stable of clients, and would love to just run a freelance copywriting business for the next 50 years.
If they try to do what I’m doing, they’d feel flustered. If I tried to do what they’re doing, I’d feel trapped.
When I had a cushy job in Oregon selling IT training, I fell into that trap. I was doing well, earning more every year, and had become an integral part of the company. But I was building another want entrepreneur’s vision, and so I never felt fulfilled. And yet, the job had so many good things going, I stifled my own vision for years to not disrupt the comfort I enjoyed.
Do I think you can change? Probably. I think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. When a lower-level need is met, some are driven to meet higher-level needs. I think some need-based entrepreneurs could turn into want entrepreneurs, after their needs are more than taken care of. Alternately, some entrepreneurs may choose to “sunset” their careers by stepping back from a bigger want-based drive, to simply ensure their needs are taken care of as they grow older. There are countless reasons for change. But I don’t think it changes on a daily or weekly basis — more likely it’s defined in years or decades.
Whether you’re driven by need or want, embrace it!
I think the most important thing to do is to live life on your terms.
This isn’t some positive thinking mumbo-jumbo.
You will be happiest when you’re living life independent of the opinion of others — when you’re able to listen to your innermost desires, and live in line with them.
If you simply want to take care of your family and once that need is met, great! Go do it, and do the best you can, delivering the best products or services your business can offer, in pursuit of that goal. And judge yourself only on whether you’re fulfilling that.
On the other hand, if you want to change the world, throw yourself at it. And stick with it, fighting through until it happens. It’s probably a longer journey, with much bigger challenges along the way. But if that’s how you’re wired — if that’s what motivates you — that should be exciting, not daunting.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,