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MaryEllen Tribby: Entrepreneur vs. CEO – Understanding the Difference Can Save Your Business (Part I)


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It’s a phenomenon that I have watched for as long as I can remember, entrepreneurs who think they can magically transform themselves into a CEO purely because they started a business.

Well, brace yourself. Because the hard cold truth is that most entrepreneurs simply do not encompass the skill set to be the CEO of their own organization.

Unfortunately, it is this one mistake that destroys more businesses than any other. And, in most cases, big time corporate CEO’s are not entrepreneurs.

So, what is the real difference between an entrepreneur and a CEO?

Before we break it down let me say this. There are some people who can perform both roles at the same time. These are generally people who grew up in the corporate world and have real experience in the business world prior to starting their own business.

If you have been following me for any length of time you know that before I started my own company I was a corporate CEO for years. I ran companies that had upward of 200 employees. I grew company revenues uphill to nearly 100 million dollars. And, I was able to organize and re-engineer these companies when the market place so warranted.

Perhaps, most importantly, I was able to make the tough decisions. I was able to hire and fire according to the company’s goals, values and well being, always putting aside my personal feelings. I was able to launch or “kill” products for the good of company. And, I was able to learn the “art of business” from the very best.

Currently, I play both roles for my company. However, my partner is the president of my company. He shares in all the business decisions that are made. This affords me the time to provide all of our members with high quality products and services.

What is an Entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur is a person who starts a business undertaking, assuming the financial risk for the sake of profit. This is the person who has the vision and sees an opportunity in the market place. They make a plan and roll out the business. In the beginning, they generally manage the business and receive all the profits.

More precisely, entrepreneurs build products and organizations and advertise (sell) those products to people who will pay for them.

In order to do this, entrepreneurs must be right about seven crucial choices:

  1. Choosing the marketplace
  2. Identifying the ideal customer
  3. Setting goals
  4. Building teams
  5. Understanding the competition
  6. Raising capital
  7. Embracing change

Next week, I’ll tell you what a CEO is.

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