Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

A Comparison of Entrepreneurs, Small Business Owners, Corporate Executives, and Public Sector Managers

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

A Comparison of Entrepreneurs, Small Business Owners, Corporate Executives, and Public Sector Managers

Article excerpt


Survey results indicate that entrepreneurs have better supervisory ability, more initiative, and a higher level of self-actualization than do small business owners, corporate executives, and public sector managers. Small business owners, executives, and managers have a greater need for power and security than do entrepreneurs.


Entrepreneurs, those individuals who choose to become self-employed, have been the subject of many studies in the past ten years. Recent literature reviews (6, 16) reveal that researchers are primarily interested in traits and characteristics that seem to be peculiar to entrepreneurs. There is no definitive set of characteristics which differentiates entrepreneurs from others; however, there appear to be some distinguishing traits exhibited by successful entrepreueurs.

Entrepreneurs appear achievement-oriented, assume decision making responsibility, dislike routine work, have considerable energy, and are very imaginative (11). Entrepreneurs want to achieve, are willing to work hard, are disposed to accept responsibility, and are oriented toward reward (5). Competence, confidence, imagination, and commitment are believed to be core traits of successful entrepreneurs (15). Brockhaus (3) determined that successful entrepreneurs had a more internal locus of control, were less satisfied with their previous job, were more fearful of dismissal from their previous jobs, and were younger than unsuccessful entrepreneurs.

In another study, Brockhaus (4) found that risk-taking propensity was not a distinguishing trait of entrepreneurs. Comparing entrepreneurs to corporate executives, Sexton and Bowman (13) determined that entrepreneurs tend to "1) be tolerant of ambiguous situations, 2) prefer autonomy (autonomy may be described as self-reliance, dominance, and independence), 3) resist conformity, 4) be interpersonally aloof yet socially adroit, 5) enjoy risk taking, 6) adapt readily to change, and 7) have a low need for support" (13:129-130).

A study of 77 entrepreneurs who earned annually more than $90,000 from their companies revealed that many were offended by having to justify their ideas to superiors, did not fear failure, were fiercely competitive, were "excitement junkies," were open to new ideas, were generally reluctant to seek outside help, and believed that their businesses were unique (9). In light of the interest in traits and characteristics, Van de Ven et al. (15) warns against the temptation to focus solely on entrepreneurial characteristics. He equates that focus with the historical development of leadership theory.

Some studies (2, 6, 10) have been undertaken to determine how entrepreneurs differ from other managers and small business owners. Begley and Boyd (2) found differences between entrepreneurs and small business managers, and Carland et al. (6) determined that there were differences between entrepreneurs and small business owners. There have even been attempts to determine whether entrepreneurs exist in the public sector. Ramamurti (12) believes that public sector employees can be entrepreneurial, but he notes that "The combination of motivations needed to produce a public entrepreneur is bound to be rare" (12:149). There are also those who contend that there are different kinds of entrepreneurs. Baumol (1), for example, identifies what he calls "initiating" and "imitative" entrepreneurs. Initiating entrepreneurs 0,52duce new products, productive techniques, and other items and procedures not previously available. Imitative entrepreneurs disseminate the innovations of the initiating entrepreneurs.

One of the major difficulties with studies of entrepreneurs and others pertains to the differentiation of entrepreneurs from other managers and owners. In effect, the identification of entrepreneurs, and especially successful entrepreneurs, is largely an ex post facto exercise. Only after someone has started and grown a business is he or she labeled an entrepreneur. …

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