Can entrepreneurs make good managers?

There is a widely held notion that the qualities of good entrepreneurs don't translate to management, but that's not always the case. 

Neil Hall/Reuters/File
Entrepreneur Richard Branson poses for photographers as he arrives at a fundraising dinner for the Novak Djokovic Foundation in London July 8. Some entrepreneurs enjoy managing companies and refining business models, while others jump from venture to venture because they enjoy the startup process.

There is a commonly held stereotype that entrepreneurs do not make good managers.

This stereotype assumes that the skills and personal traits that make someone a good entrepreneur will in some way prevent them from becoming a good manager.  And it assumes that all entrepreneurs are good at starting things, but when the business begins to grow it is time hire some good executives to come in and take over running the company.

Like many stereotypes, there is an element of truth to this view of entrepreneurs.  But, is it by no means universally describes all entrepreneurs.

So what kind of entrepreneur are you?  Do you fit this stereotype or are you a different kind of entrepreneur?

Looking at the two extremes, we can start to understand what drives people down different paths in their entrepreneurial careers.

At one extreme are those known as serial entrepreneurs.  Serial entrepreneurs often help reinforce the stereotype that entrepreneurs don’t make good managers.

Many serial entrepreneurs just don’t want to be managers or administrators.  The reason they pursue entrepreneurial careers is that they are passionate about the process of the start-up.

Serial entrepreneurs love to find problems that need solutions in the market.  They love to build a business model to address the opportunity created by a problem and then put together the resources to launch a business.  And they enjoy the process of refining the business model and gaining acceptance with customers in the market.

But, their personalities don’t allow them to focus on a single business for very long.  Once a business gets established and is operating smoothly, they get restless and even a bit bored.  They start to see new opportunities they want to pursue.

To be successful, these entrepreneurs need to learn how to build a strong team that has a passion for the business and want to manage its growth.

At the other extreme are people who become entrepreneurs through a specific interest or career path.  These are the entrepreneurs who start a business that is based on knowledge and training that they have acquired from their education and work experience.  I call them “vocational entrepreneurs.”

These entrepreneurs pursue a specific opportunity in the market related to their experience and knowledge.  Their goal is to launch the business and work in it for many years to come.  Vocational entrepreneurs could be engineers who want to own their own firms, clothing designers who want to start their own clothing line, chefs who want to open their own restaurants, and so forth.

Vocational entrepreneurs are not drawn into becoming business owners because of the excitement of the start-up.  Rather, they have a specific passion and specific knowledge that is the foundation of a new business.

Vocational entrepreneurs need to learn how to become effective managers and leaders. They may only have the opportunity to launch this one business during their entire working career.

Vocational entrepreneurs must learn basic business skills — management, marketing, finance and accounting.  These are the skills that will help them grow sustainable and successful businesses.

They can learn these business skills by pursuing a business degree, through attending workshops and seminars, or through reading and working with mentors and experts.

Most entrepreneurs, including me, are somewhere in between these two extremes.  When I was an active entrepreneur, I loved the process of the start-up.  But, I also enjoyed being a part of building something.  In looking back on my entrepreneurial career, I did have a bit of restlessness that eventually led me to decide to move on to the next opportunity. So while I needed to continue to hone my basic business skills, I also had to be mindful to build a team that would be able to take over managing the business when I moved on.

Understanding what type of entrepreneur you are begins with recognizing what it is that drove you to become an entrepreneur in the first place.  Entrepreneurial careers can lead you down many possible paths.

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