Bluehost/Hostmonster/Fastdomain started very small. We never took a dime of investment capital, never had any debt, and were happy to wait the 18 months it took before we got our first paycheck.
This may sound quite risky to many of you out there, but for me it wasn’t at all. I could see in my mind completely the plan for success. I defined success differently back then and I honestly never planned for this business to grow this large, but I had a clear picture of exactly the steps required to succeed. In my mind it was just a matter of doing it. I never thought there was a chance that it wouldn’t succeed. This is the how an entrepreneur thinks. They solve problems, take risks, work hard, and have an insatiable desire to succeed.
Now that we have grown into a much larger company we have somewhat outgrown the stage where only an entrepreneur is needed. Now we need an entrepreneur and a great leader.
This got me thinking what the difference is. I wanted to share with you what I believe the difference is. Here is the Matt Heaton definition of each.
Successful Entrepreneur – A person who has the ability to recognize a need/deficiency, ability to differentiate between a useful need and an idea that can be a successful business, design a solution, use his/her drive and ambition to implement the solution , and then profit from that solution to the desired level of the entrepreneur.
Most successful entrepreneurs follow this path reasonably close in my opinion. The unsuccessful ones are nearly identical in almost every way to the very successful entrepreneurs except for two missing attributes. If they lack the knowledge to implement their own ideas themselves they often fail. This happens because sometimes if you rely on someone else, or outside help the ideas tend to change and the vision that they clearly saw at the beginning of their plan begins to fall apart. The second area is intelligence/education. If you have all the ambition in the world but don’t understand finances or your product or the marketplace you will almost certainly fail. I am not talking about a degree or any specific piece of paper. I simply mean that you have to be willing to put the time in to really understand the specifics of the problem you are trying to solve. If you do that you will succeed.
Successful Leader – A person who has the ability to recognize a need/deficiency, ability to differentiate between the most important goals from those that can and should wait, ability to design a solution that can be implemented with the resources he/she has available, ability to obtain currently unavailable resources to achieve the outlined goal, use his/her drive and ambition to implement the goal using the resources and people around him, and then show others how the goal solved the predetermined problem and then clearly state what the next goal is and why.
In essence, for me the main difference between a great entrepreneur and a great leader is how you achieve success. An entrepreneur literally wills his/her idea to come to life and succeed. It all comes from drive and ambition from within themselves. A great leader does the same thing through the people around them. Its easy to make myself be great (Always humble I know ), its MUCH harder to make those around you be great as well.
To be a successful entrepreneur from my point of view is a piece of cake. Its in my DNA, it’s who I am. To be a successful leader is much harder for me. I very much rely on my own abilities to solve many problems at hand. I am often unwilling to listen to others ideas or to give freedom to implement those ideas because they don’t fit within my vision for the business. Sometimes that can be a good thing if I feel the person would make a big mistake, but I have tried very hard to surround myself with intelligent, competent people. If I can’t trust them to do their jobs, then when they fail at those jobs it’s no ones fault but my own.
I’m still deciding if I’m the right person to lead our company in the future. I tend to lead more with a whip in hand then with a kind word and encouragement. Its time for me to decide if I’m willing to bend with the reality of having a large company or break in half from lack of flexibility required to lead a large company. Whatever path I choose I’ll make sure it the best thing for the company, for our customers, and for me.
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com / Hostmonster.com / Fastdomain.com