How do small business owners and entrepreneurs differ? The differences affect things like goal-setting and decision making. We also talk about why the entrepreneurial spirit is important and how to engage with others effectively when exercising your entrepreneurial muscles.
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About Jen McFarland
For over 12 years I’ve tackled business problems and provided simple, powerful solutions. I’ve led 7-figure projects and helped entrepreneurs and small businesses thrive.
I teach women how to build their business, not around spreadsheets, bottom lines, and formulas, but around equity, leadership, mindset, courage, and resilience — you know, the things we are born to do.
Are you starting a business? Confused about how to grow? Check out my favorite business growth tools.
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Transcript: Entrepreneurial Spirit
Hello and welcome to the Third Paddle Podcast. I’m your host, Jen McFarland. On this episode, we start gearing up for the new year. Are you a small business owner or an entrepreneur? Do you know the difference? And how does that affect your goals heading into the new year? All that and more here on the Third Paddle. Welcome to the Third Paddle podcast recorded at the Vandal Lounge in beautiful southeast Portland, Oregon. Why the Third Paddle? Because even the most badass entrepreneurs get stuck up in business shit creek. Management consultant Jennifer McFarland is your third paddle helping you get unstuck.
Oh, my God, you never told him to leave.
Oh, my God.
Okay. We’re good. So what’s a small business owner and what’s an entrepreneur?
You’re asking me? Oh, I don’t know. I’m asking the [inaudible].
I can honestly say that when I started my own entrepreneurial journey, I didn’t know the difference. Did you know? You’ve been a small business owner, too.
Have I? See, I don’t really know the difference either, but these are identifiers that I may not fully understand. I don’t know.
Well, I think that if there’s two of us in the room– of course, there’s nobody else, but the two of us were maybe a little confused so we thought maybe you would want to know the differences too because maybe you’re just as confused about the whole deal as me, because I’ll tell you. In some of my blog posts, I use them interchangeably and they’re really different. So do you see yourself as a small business owner or an entrepreneur?
Neither actually. Yeah.
Ooh, ooh. Maybe we’ll get back to that.
We’ll get back to that. Okay. So do you have a big idea or a great idea? I really liked this article I found on entrepreneur.com. It’s kind of breaks down the differences between an entrepreneur and a small business owner. So small business owners have a great idea. They’re like, “I have the skill. I want to have it shared with the public.”
“I want to put out my shingle and sell things. [crosstalk] things.”
They have a great idea, as in, they have a vision of how they see people interacting with whatever service or product they’re creating.
Right. So maybe they found a problem in their local area, a gap that they see and they want to fill for people. Entrepreneurs have really big ideas. Their vision is more global than local, I think, is maybe the best way to think about it. And that’s because when you think about what a small business owner’s goals versus an entrepreneur’s goals, that’s where things kind of differ, right? So if you’re thinking about how to serve your community and how to help people with a particular service, that looks a little different than if you have an idea that you want to help everybody in your state or everybody in your region or everybody your age in the world.
Or everybody your age. Small business owners tend to want to hold on to those great ideas and work through them and keep that steady growth going for maybe a 10 or 20 year period–
–if that makes sense.
So a CrossFit gym isn’t going to pivot to make tacos–
–although that would be kind of fun.
Where is the person doing that?
I’ll sign up for that gym now.
Yeah. Usually, they’re mutually exclusive. See, that’s kind of a thing, but I see your point. They stick to what they know because they are honing a specific thing that they know.
Right. And they’re not necessarily looking for something huge. They’re just going through and their outcome is clear.
They’re not high [out?]. They don’t take a lot of risk. Entrepreneurs are big risk, big potential rewards, and they have big ideas.
Okay small business owners tend to be more risk-averse. They tend to think about tasks that are more immediate. Whereas entrepreneurs are thinking more in terms of six months from now.
But I would say that the biggest difference between the two is around the idea of scalability. So entrepreneurs are ready to scale and sell and move on to the next thing.
They can already see it.
They can already see it, or imagine it, or they know who they want to sell to. And then they may even know what the next thing is that they want to do. Right?
So there’s not that attachment, whereas a small business owner, like we said, they want to get through the week, and then they want to get through the year and they want to see continual growth over a 10-year period, or 20 years or whatever. And part of the work that I’ve been doing lately is consulting with really small businesses here in Portland, Oregon, and asking what their three to five-year goals are. And for many local small business owners who are focused on the local market, it’s really, “I just want to continue to grow and be on this path of doing what I do and growing.” And I think that that’s great. And they’re just looking for some marketing tips and some first some technology strategies that help them build upon all of their knowledge and everything that they’re already doing.
To maybe finesse what they’re already doing, improving outcomes for the community they’re already serving, growing their client base maybe, etc.
Yeah. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that they’re looking for.
And sometimes there’s just a few simple tweaks that you can do and it’ll make big changes. These are not immediate changes that will happen in two or three months. These are changes that with consistency, getting back to the CrossFit analogy, you go to CrossFit regularly, you start to see results.
You go to CrossFit regularly.
I’m trying to get back to going to CrossFit regularly. But you go, if you exercise, you begin to see results. If you begin to send out email marketing campaigns and work on building your lists and different things like that, you’ll begin to see results and sales from that outreach, as an example.
Right. You’re building a new habit, a business habit.
You’re building a business habit. Entrepreneurs are less interested in that. They maybe have an idea. They want to build a widget or a thing, and have it go viral and sell it. It’s just a different model. It’s a different mode of thinking. Right?
It’s a mindset.
Interesting. So what I’m getting from how you’re talking about it so far is that small business owners, you could really identify yourself as a small business owner if you know the community that you want to serve. Maybe you’re living in that community. So community seems to be very central to a small business owner’s plan, to their mission, to where they see their business going, whereas an entrepreneur is really thinking about– a community is one thing. It’s one area, one group, but an entrepreneur is looking outside of those sorts of– sort of a limitless mindset. They’re thinking about pushing those boundaries, about going outside the box a bit more.
Yeah. I think that that’s one way of looking at it for sure. You want to take risks, and you want to see what’s possible. So startups, for example, that have an entrepreneurial mindset versus a small business mindset would be if you took a look at Lyft, versus taxicab companies.
So you’re saying Lyft is more entrepreneurial mindset, taxicab company is more small business?
Tend to be. They can be huge enterprises, especially in New York or something like that.
The entire purpose of Lyft was to break the bounds of what was established by a small [a?] business, push it as far as they can buy disrupting it, taking big risks, and finding investors to see if they could disrupt the taxicab market and make it into more of a freelance gig economy type of product where you could get a ride from anywhere, and the price of it is based entirely on supply and demand, not some set rate that is determined by the company that doesn’t change, right? So you pay more or less based on how many drivers are out, how busy it is, all of these different factors, and that’s because they had every intention of scaling it up and taking it global, I mean, especially when you look at Uber. They’ve been fighting court cases globally [laughter]–
–to try and get into every market and disrupt these local cab companies.
And I see what you’re saying. I mean, if somebody at LiftO who has that visionary idea, that entrepreneurial mindset, isn’t worried about, “Do you know whatever email drip campaign is going out this week?” They’re thinking so much more beyond those sort of daily weekly grind-type tasks.
Yeah, I mean, I think they want both, but I think instead of the grinding-it-out tasks, they’re like, “Okay, who do I need to talk to? How do I position this product? How many investors do I have?” They’re thinking way bigger than going to a bunch of local events and making inroads in your local community. And I think that what I want to underscore more than anything is that there’s absolutely space for both, and there’s absolutely opportunities for disruption for both. I think that we find a lot of small business owners who are women who approach things differently, and as a result, they’re disrupting some of these old-card local businesses that are owned by men, and so you can have an entrepreneurial spirit and still be a small business owner.
I like that.
They’re not mutually exclusive. Being a small business owner is a form of entrepreneurship. It’s just that you have different goals that you’re trying to accomplish, and you may even do something different. You just maybe aren’t interested at all in being the number one distributor of whatever everywhere [laughter]. Maybe you just like your local community, and you have a problem you want to solve there. So there’s no judgment, but it is a difference in how you approach problems if you’re looking to go really big, and that’s why sometimes when you have that entrepreneurial spirit and you’re working within an organization, you might butt up against it.
Yeah, I felt that before [laughter].
Oh, certainly I have. I–
That’s why when you started talking about how women look at things differently and those of us with an entrepreneurial spirit, whether we’re working in a small or large business or cooperation– and I come from the nonprofit world. Nonprofits and governments can also act like corporations. So we’re not just talking about the big buddies on Wall Street, the private companies [laughter]. We’re talking about the other guys too.
Absolutely. And I certainly ran into this a lot in my public service career because part of having that entrepreneurial spirit is that you’re always questioning things and wondering if you can do things better.
You’re staying curious.
And you’re staying curious. And we’ve had previous podcasts about how important curiosity is to innovation. And there’s a recent Harvard Business Journal. It’s completely dedicated to curiosity, and if you’re always questioning and asking whether things can be done better, that really runs afoul of bureaucracy, which is, honestly, this is the way that we’ve always done it, and yet at the same time, going back to the court cases around Uber that have happened over and over again is typically against cities, [the?] counties and states that don’t know what the hell to do because the way they’ve always done it no longer works.
The status quo is in question now and the new ways that the disruptors are creating new different thought patterns. And large bodies like cities, county government seeds, whatever large corporations, they don’t have a new thought. Wait a minute, I can’t be thinking new thoughts because I have all of these things that I need to be doing in order to maintain the status quo. No, no, no, no, no, no thoughts will go over here in the pile of, never pick this up and do this now.
That’s not always true [laughter]. I’m not going to say that. I worked in government for a long time, and I think that there are new ideas all the time. I mean, one of the reasons people don’t like government is because they think it operates very slowly. I would argue that the larger the government entity, the slower it is because there’s a lot more complexity.
One of the reasons that you might say government is slow is because it’s that the will of the politicians. So politicians change on a dime, and it’s slower to turn that ship if you’re a bureaucrat trying to create policies that are in alignment with what the politicians have said and do it and execute that. But one of the things that really– almost more than questioning if things could be done better, one of the aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset that really got me into trouble at the city is that I was always very optimistic [laughter].
Oh, that’s trouble.
Not only would I ask questions, I was like, “It’ll be fine and–
It’ll be great.
–it’ll be great [laughter].” I always wanted to ask people to consider the new possibilities. I would call. A lot of the work that I did was doing outreach to other entities, other city governments, other government agencies and finding out about the new ways of doing things, and I would come back with just loads of evidence and say, “Look, this is going to work. It’s worked everywhere. Let’s do it.” And that optimism about possibilities, about change, about all the things that can be done, it’s not really accepted in a lot of agencies, and I don’t know why. I can guess I understand because I also was an executive, and so I get the budgetary constraints and the time constraints but a lot of ways the government could be streamlined get quashed because of like, “Oh, my God, what if we make this worse?” And so I would say that for whether you identify as a small business owner or whether you identify as an entrepreneur who wants to scale, this is one piece of the entrepreneurial spirit that will serve you well, which is being optimistic–
–about the future and considering–
It’s going to be awesome.
Well, I mean, so you can research yourself out of a decision, and you can research yourself into a decision, and all that research needs to be aligned with your goals, and if you really have this goal and you think you’ve found the way, be optimistic and take a risk.
The other thing that I really love about that– and I think you’re totally right. I agree with you 100%. Having that kind of mindset is also very inclusive and expansive. If you’re thinking positively, if you’re thinking optimistically, you’re wanting to bring people in to that type of energy because it opens you up, right? It’s a very open-minded, open-sighted way of looking at things. And the one thing I know about the universe is it’s either expanding or contracting. That’s just science [laughter].
So would you rather be contracting and getting smaller or would you rather be expanding? And if you’re thinking at small-business-entrepreneurial-whatever mindset you take on, growth is good.
Absolutely. And so last night when you and I had dinner, one of the things that you said was you get what you give. And I think that this optimism, this can-do attitude, it goes back to when we’ve talked about things like gratitude versus toxic which you really should go to the webpage for last week’s podcast–
Oh, yes. Oh, yes, you do.
–about toxic because I did post a video because, yes, in 2018, two women were in a fighting, wrestling match in Walmart on Black Friday.
I mean, it was basically a chokehold.
It was basically a chokehold [laughter]. Clearly, neither of them were optimistic about the possibility that everybody can have the doll that they want.
That everybody can get to the front of the line and buy their television. So I think that when we talk about optimism is deeper than that, I think it’s exactly what you’re talking about which is being expansive, going through things with a positive attitude but also being grateful for the opportunities. And then it helps you carry things forward. And that optimism– well, it just feels good. It feels better to be optimistic than to be some Debbie Downer that says, “I’ve tried that. It’s never going to work.”
And let’s be super clear. It doesn’t mean that you have to sugarcoat or always find the silver lining or never be frustrated or if you’re coming up against a boundary, if you’re thinking about growth, you’re pushing past what you have previously experienced. So that’s not always going to feel great. We’re not saying it’s going to feel great and awesome and it’s going to be unicorns [inaudible] confetti everywhere, but it’s going to be– that will be great. Just [inaudible] by that will be really great. But it’s not going to feel like that all time, but you can sometimes feel is frustration can help you identify what you need to be focusing on perhaps so that you can stay in that positive outlook to keep going.
Yeah. I mean, I think if you’re going to do something new, it behooves you to be optimistic because– and it doesn’t mean that you don’t research it, it just means that you’re optimistic about the risk you’re about to take because you’ve thought it through, it’s a calculated risk, it’s–
And it’s worth it.
It’s worth it. it’s aligned with your goals. So do it. And doing it and taking those calculated risks, those are also parts of the entrepreneurial mindset and that spirit. And the thing that’s so cool about it is if you are an aspiring entrepreneur or small-business owner, you can incorporate this into your work life. You might want to talk to your boss about it a little bit [laughter]. But you can. You can have that can-do attitude. You can look into new things. You can do all of these things. You can encourage your managers, your executive team, your CEO to take calculated risks. And it makes you more valuable if you’re able to present that in a positive way. And it’s also something that works better within larger organizations. So when you go into say a– if you’re working for a small-business owner, be careful with this type of thing because they think you’re trying to redo everything and take over the business.
And some of them might feel very defensive because you are encroaching upon what they have already created or the jobs that they have already done the task that they have already finished.
Well, it’s their baby. See this is different. See that’s where a small business and an entrepreneur are different. It’s their baby. They don’t want to sell it. They want to serve and do their thing and you want to make changes. As opposed to an entrepreneur who it was like, “Oh, that’ll help me grow? Oh hell, yeah, we’re doing that.”
Because I’m going to [tick?]. We’re going to scale up. We’re going to sell this. So there’s some different things [that?] you think about when you’re considering incorporating that into an organization. But it’s also important to consider if you have those characteristics if you want to embark on being a small business owner or an entrepreneur.
I feel like you know how those magazines back in the day like Seventeen and Cosmo and Vogue [laughter], they would do these quizzes about what kind of girlfriend you would be if you were in a relationship? I feel like magazines– we need like, “Are you an entrepreneur?” Like A, B, C, D [laughter] multi-choice quiz?
That doesn’t exist? It’s not real? Am I being unrealistic [laughter]?
No. I was just kind of hung up on– I didn’t really read Cosmo [laughter]. So, okay. I was like, “What was I doing instead of reading Cosmo?”
Can we think about that for a minute?
Probably studying [laughter].
Hey. Okay, that’s true [laughter]. I have nothing to say about that. I was probably studying or playing softball. It was one or the other.
See, I wasn’t an athlete. So I had more time after I’d finish studying or whatever. I’d be like, “Magazines. Books. Yeah.”
I read a lot of books. But honestly, my mom just didn’t like me reading those kinds of magazines.
Like Sixteen and Cosmo and stuff like that.
And I was really kind of angry at the time, but I kind of thank her for it now, so [laughter]. I don’t know. Because I’m nerdy and I wear nerdy glasses and stuff.
Glasses are awesome [laughter].
So, I think if in 2019 you want to be a small business owner or an entrepreneur, you definitely have to listen to next week show. If you have a business and you want to spiff up your goals and get some ideas and get some clarity, you have to listen to next week show because we have an awesome guest coming next week. Her name is Sandra Hughes and it’s Life Reinvented. She works with people who are already small business owners or entrepreneurs and also aspiring entrepreneurs who are currently working within an organization and want to make that side hustle into a full-fledged business. But there are some things that you can do, I think, ahead of this episode next week, which is really consider and generate some ideas around what type of business you would have, what types of services you would have, if it’s something that you want to make and do yourself, or if it’s something that you want to make and eventually sell to someone else.
And sometimes that’s a hard concept for people– it’s a hard decision for some of us.
Well, and like I said, when I was doing my side hustle– so I started with a side hustle, and I didn’t know all the options that were available to me. So I would’ve done things much differently had I actually thought about this, sat down with it.
Well, I had a business coach, still, when I was working. But I think there’s a lot to consider before you even [hic?] your business coach, which I didn’t know. And so my business coach was very much in the local small business. And so that’s what I created even though what I knew what I wanted to do was transition from being a subject matter expert into a writer and someone who’s known for knowing things, more of a consultant and trainer and mentor and aspiring author, which is why I am just a massive content creation machine [laughter] with a small business. And it’s why I am transitioning out of that and more into speaking, and mentorship, and writing, and then continuing to podcast is this realization of why some of what I have been doing hasn’t been a good fit for me. And so one of the wishes that I have for everybody if you are in the first few years of your business and things aren’t fitting right, or if you are considering having a side hustle, is to really consider do you want to be a thought leader, do you want to be an entrepreneur, do you want to be a small business owner, what do you like to do, and how do you want to serve. And thought leaders kind of a loaded term, but do you have some skills that you’re just really good at that you want to share with people? And how would you like to do that? That can be facilitation or consulting. You don’t have to be like Seth Godin, or Gary Maynard, or Chuck. I mean, we’re just talking about being a leader within your community even that can really help people and lend a hand.
A go-to person for a thing.
A go-to person for things. So, with that, I think that you’re kind of set, right, for getting ready for next week?
Yes and yes.
Yes and yes. Here we go.
Using my improv skills.
Yes and. And I think I would like to know, and I think our listeners would like to know if you don’t view yourself as a small business owner or an entrepreneur, what’s the term that you sort of identify with? Are you–?
Oh, a thought leader.
A thought leader?
So you were talking about it–?
I was talking about it.
–and I just didn’t know it.
I was talking about it and yeah, I think you were too busy, busy listening to the guys outside that are cleaning the dumpster or something.
No, I was listening to your words. I was taking them in but it didn’t sound– I was like, “Oh, we didn’t get back to what we said at the top of I don’t [crosstalk]–
Or did I have a nerd moment where I didn’t clearly identify what I was talking about and how it related to the beginning of the show because I do that sometimes it’s a thing?
Yeah, maybe, maybe, maybe, and they literally are washing a dumpster outside of the co-working space. I was like, “Are you kidding me this right now?” So, hopefully, you can’t hear that. And if you can, well, you’re welcome. So I feel– so okay, there’s a thought leader, which I agree is sort of a loaded, triggery word for some of us in small business/entrepreneur world. And yet, I don’t identify as a thought leader, I don’t identify as a small business owner, and I don’t identify as an entrepreneur. I feel like I– 20 questions where it’s like, animal, mineral, vegetable, or whatever.
Right. But I think that’s very valid. So I think that coming from my perspective of thought leadership, or servant leadership, which is that we’re all leaders, and we’re all doing what we can within our organizations, whether we own it or not, whether we’re building it or not, and whether we’re writing books or not, we’re all leaders, and we all–and that was what I was hoping is to get across is we’re all leaders, and we can all have that entrepreneurial mindset regardless of how we serve, or who we serve, or who we work for.
So that means that you’re totally part of the clan.
Oh, okay, great. Oh, I belong. Okay, great.
Liz, you belong, your part of it.
That’s all I wanted to do.
You get to do whatever you want to do and be happy. And I know that you have an entrepreneurial mindset because–
I do. Well, we wouldn’t be getting along as well as if I didn’t think in a growth capacity of like–
In a growth capacity.
I like using words. What? Growth capacity is a phrase.
It’s a thing. No, and that’s a really good point. I think that you don’t have to– and I really– one of the reasons why I don’t like thought leadership is it’s such a box and I don’t want to be in a box. And I think that because I have this kind of free-flowing thinking about where everybody ends up and that everybody kind of fits and flows in and out of different categories, I don’t even give it a second thought that people might be like, “Hey, what about me?” And that’s a really good point. I think that we all serve from where we’re at and nobody’s better than anybody else. And as long as we all have kindness and gratitude and–
–curiosity, and we strive to do a good job, I think we were doing it.
We’re doing it, baby. I think I love that we’re talking about this topic, and I love that you’ve said what you’ve said. I kind of love that I’ve said what I’ve said too, but–
Of course, you do.
–that’s not the point. No, but this is really great because we are humans are meant to be working with each other in tandem in relationship to each other. And that’s another key aspect to understanding being an entrepreneur or being a small business owner is that as long as we’re coming from that good place of wanting growth for ourselves and for our business and for the other people involved or impacted by our businesses, that’s really what the bottom line is. That’s the good bottom line of what everybody wants.
Absolutely. And I come from a 21st-century leadership point of view, which is much different than anything that we’ve seen or experienced before, which is more collaborative, it’s based on abundance, it’s based on the idea of working together instead of working against each other. Because all of those things that we did, they don’t work the way– that’s why everybody thinks government is broken because they don’t understand why nobody’s talking to each other and why it takes so long for things to happen. Because those are very siloed workflows where everybody has to do their TPT report and you have to meet your certain met benchmarks and metrics, and if you don’t, you’re in deep trouble. So why would you help anybody else? It’s more man eat man, and it’s top-down leadership as opposed to something where we can all lead. So knowing that that is what works, knowing that I’m not a millennial, but millennials really appreciate working with people who are collaborative. They don’t like being bossed because they feel like everybody has something to contribute including themselves. I don’t really know why everybody busts on millennials because I think that that’s fabulous and that’s how I’ve always felt is that why not listen to everybody, why not let younger people lead, why not?
Yeah, yeah, I don’t know, I think that’s a great question. And the fact that you’re even asking why not is very entrepreneurial of you.
Why thank you. I guess with that we should leave.
[My job?]. Oh my God, just patting herself on the back, literally right now.
Thank you for listening to the Third Pedal. You can find us online at www.thirdpedal.com. Please follow us on Instagram and Twitter and see you next week you’ll want to hear Sandra Hues.
Thank you for listening to the Third Pedal podcast. Be sure to catch every episode by subscribing on iTunes. To learn more, check out our website at www.thirdpedal.com. The Third Pedal podcast is sponsored by Foster Growth LLC, online at www.fostergrowth.tech.
Jen McFarland is a business systems expert, podcaster, and blogger. She’s helped hundreds of businesses and thousands of podcast listeners make better business decisions. Jen’s passion is helping women-owned businesses get the growth tools they need to meet their 3-5 year business goals.
Are you starting a business? Confused about how to grow? Check out Jen’s Picks, my favorite business growth tools.