How to Tell if You’re an Entrepreneur or a CEO

As an experienced strategy consultant boosting the effectiveness and profitability of owner managed and family run businesses in the UK and across the pond, I’ve been involved in some heated debates on entrepreneurs versus CEOs over the years.

Author MaryEllen Tribby makes a valid point when she says that the one mistake that destroys more companies than any other is that most entrepreneurs don’t possess the skill set to be the CEO of their own organisation. I likewise agree with her verdict that in most cases corporate CEOs are not entrepreneurs.

I’ve likewise witnessed entrepreneurs struggling to make this transition to CEO – severely hampering the growth of their business in the process.

Many entrepreneurs I’ve worked with are equipped with a high drive, creative ideas and an abundance of energy, ambition and passion for the company they’ve set up from scratch from a garden shed or a back bedroom.

However, as the business evolves and grows it’s often time for them to “step back” and evaluate their contribution and establish exactly where they add value to the long-term picture and goals for the business.

In many cases where entrepreneurs have recognised their limitations, I’ve supported them in bringing on board an external MD or CEO who takes on responsibilities including recruitment and strategic growth while entrepreneurs remain accountable for equally critical areas such as innovation.

If you’re not sure which of these labels applies to you now, here’s a self-assessment quiz to help you decide. From the table below work out which style most closely reflects the way you operate:

Are You an Entrepreneur or CEO?

Entrepreneur Chief Executive
Do you: Operate on intuition and gut feel Take a disciplined, considered approach
Do you consider yourself: A visionary and innovator A motivating, team-building leader
Are you: Focused on output Process-driven
When it comes to sales: Is clinching the deal what drives you Are you focused on the bottom line
When hiring people, do you: Rely on instinct Clear evidence of achievement
To get things done, do you: Expect people to do it your way Ask for options and alternative solutions


If you’re responses fall into neither category or you require help in determining where you add value to your business then contact me on with a comment below, drop me an e-mail via or send a tweet to @richardwhatif.

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