Startup Options: Leading or Disrupting?

Do you disrupt, lead, or both?

Thoughtful career writers will correctly point out that self-employment isn’t for everyone. Just as being a surgeon or a carpenter isn’t for everyone, we have unique characteristics that allow us to be more successful in some jobs or endeavors versus others. This principle applies with equal force in the arena of entrepreneurship: being self-employed requires certain competencies in order to be successful.

Even finer distinctions can be made within self-employment, too, so here I’m referring specifically to a startup company. What about the role of the founder/entrepreneur versus that of the business person that can pull it all together? A recent article in Entrepreneur provides a description of the differences between the role of the creator/innovator/entrepreneur and that of the business leader/CEO in startup organizations:

An entrepreneur acts as a hugely powerful engine for disruption and change… An entrepreneur needs to create a product or service. The onus is on them to create the “something from nothing” / ex nihilo idea that gets the process started.

But a CEO has to be a vehicle for sustainable success. If you’re leading a company it’s simply not enough to just be the engine… There are dozens of unexciting logistical and administrative issues that come under a CEOs [sic] purview (even if someone else is doing the actual work). That might frustrate an entrepreneur who wants to be free to focus on the product.

Few are skilled at finding and capitalizing on market opportunities and leading others while managing details. You may not be comfortable in the role of “hugely powerful engine for disruption and change.” On the other hand, the thought of having to manage the operational details of a company may sound too confining.

How well your characteristics align with your chosen career, and how thoughtful you were in choosing a career, is related to net worth, holding age, income, and percentage of wealth inherited constant. When contemplating self-employment via a startup, consider the requirements of each role. Are you better suited to one or the other, or perhaps both? Can you fake your way through the one in which you may not have the skills? Or find someone to fill that role? The success of your business, and your net worth, may depend on it.

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