Have you noticed that the way we refer to ourselves in the workplace changes as frequently as any other fashion? In the 1990’s, ambitious professionals referred to themselves as “consultants”. As we moved into the 21st century, “business coach” emerged as the next euphemism. Now a new badge of honor has emerged: “entrepreneur”.

The problem with these terms is that they are all a bit broad brush. The current wave of entrepreneurialism assumes that every entrepreneur wants the same thing. The holy grail of business success has become to create the next big exit. From Google to Snapchat, to be seen as successful as an entrepreneur, you must grow big, grow fast, and exit quickly.

The problem with this thinking is that one size entrepreneurialism doesn’t work. One of the first questions that we ask when we work with new clients is “what kind of entrepreneur are you?” I’ve asked pre-revenue startup entrepreneurs to seasoned executives at multinational organizations and a few common themes have emerged. Most entrepreneurs:

  • have not thought about this question
  • believe in the “one size fits all” model of entrepreneurial success
  • are setting themselves up for failure because:
    • They will not achieve their goals because they do not believe in them
    • They will succeed in creating work that they find personally unsatisfying

Exploring the question has revealed four major kinds of entrepreneurs (and a similar diversity of intrapreneurs):

1. Freelancers want to do the work that they love. They are generally not interested in the complexity of building an enterprise and do well when others take care of the details.

2. Salespeople are accomplished at matching products and services with customers. Some salespeople also have talents in creating products and services, some focus exclusively on sales and leave product and service creation to others.

3. Shopkeepers want to create an enterprise that they can operate on their own or with a small number of partners. They tend to have a build and hold/operate orientation and are less interested in an exit strategy than in ongoing satisfying work. Shopkeepers often create multi-generational businesses, They want to “own the whole grape”.

4. Enterprise builders, often serial entrepreneurs, are looking to create value by developing a concept into a functioning business that can be sold to others to operate. They understand that collecting the resources necessary to create large-scale enterprise may require multiple investors and complex equity sharing agreements. They are growing something bigger that the shopkeepers’ grapes and instead seek to “own a slice of the watermelon.”

What kind of entrepreneur are you? Tell the world in the comments below.