ChangeLeadershipPeopleJuly 17, 20130Entrepreneurs Come In Two Flavors

If you're an entrepreneur, which flavor are you?

I read a great many posts and arti­cles by and about entre­pre­neurs. Late­ly it has seemed to me that there are two basic entre­pre­neur­ial mind­sets. There may well be more, and there may be vari­a­tions on these themes, but these two entre­pre­neur­ial types seem to cov­er most of the ter­ri­to­ry I’ve observed.

Fla­vor #1 is the “make a killing” (MAK) entre­pre­neur.  His or her core moti­va­tion is to crack the code on becom­ing wealthy.  This kind of entre­pre­neur wants to build a bet­ter mouse­trap not pri­mar­i­ly to rid the world of dis­ease-cre­at­ing ver­min, or give peo­ple a more humane mouse-removal option, but to exit the mouse­trap busi­ness alto­geth­er with a very fat check in hand, and retire to the South of France. Now, these folks quite often cre­ate won­der­ful new things — but what they real­ly want to do is fig­ure out how to build some­thing that can be scaled up and sold.

Fla­vor #2 is the “richard bran­son” (RB) entre­pre­neur.  He or she is pas­sion­ate­ly com­mit­ted to bring­ing a prod­uct or ser­vice to the world that’s bet­ter, faster, sleek­er, sim­pler, more sus­tain­able, more delight­ful, eas­i­er, etc.  This entre­pre­neur wants to build a bet­ter mouse­trap because he or she can see so clear­ly how much cool­er it would be than any­thing that cur­rent­ly exists.  And this per­son can’t wait to see how it’s going to hap­pen. Now, this kind of entre­pre­neur quite often also gets rich (as wit­ness the actu­al Richard Bran­son) and some­times even buys a house in in the south of France — but he or she prob­a­bly keeps work­ing on the next, even cool­er ver­sion of the thing while sit­ting on his or her terasse. Get­ting rich is not the point — or not the main point.

I’ve been think­ing about this quite a bit late­ly because I’ve been real­iz­ing that I’m about
95% RB, and my busi­ness part­ner is about 65% RB and about 35% MAK (I haven’t run this by him yet — he might assess him­self dif­fer­ent­ly).  And I see that his infu­sion of MAK-ness is very good for me and for the busi­ness.  With­out him, the busi­ness would­n’t be grow­ing as quick­ly, and we would­n’t be think­ing as much (or as prac­ti­cal­ly) about cre­at­ing new rev­enue streams that are more self- sus­tain­ing and scalable.

But I’m also watch­ing my son — who is heav­i­ly weight­ed toward the RB side — hav­ing lots of dif­fi­cul­ty find­ing an oper­at­ing rhythm with his busi­ness part­ner, who is a pure, unadul­ter­at­ed, 100% MAK. They have these frus­trat­ing con­ver­sa­tions where Ian focus­es (pas­sion­ate­ly) on brand and how they can build a busi­ness and a rep­u­ta­tion by giv­ing their cus­tomers an expe­ri­ence and food that are unique­ly attrac­tive in a very spe­cif­ic way. And his part­ner just wants to focus on reduc­ing food and liquor costs, increas­ing oper­a­tional effi­cien­cies and get­ting peo­ple in and out quick­ly, so their restau­rant will blow up and turn a big prof­it. They’re speak­ing two dif­fer­ent lan­guages entire­ly, with almost no over­lap, and I know that each thinks the oth­er is…not wrong, exact­ly, but just not that appeal­ing.

And it seems to me that if you’re an entre­pre­neur, it’s impor­tant to become aware of your pri­ma­ry fla­vor. It will help you get clear about what suc­cess looks like for you, and it will also help you make sure that your part­ners share enough of your mind­set to speak the same lan­guage and be excit­ed about the same future.

Which may very well include that house in the South of France, what­ev­er your flavor. 

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