“Co-Founder and CEO.” That’s what it says on my business card, on the signature line of my emails, on my LinkedIn profile, and my Twitter bio. The “Co-Founder” part tells you that I started SureSwift Capital with a partner. The “CEO” part means that I’m ultimately accountable to my team for creating an environment they can thrive in, and for the overall success or failure of the business. So it’s correct and complete… but it isn’t the title I’m proudest of today. That title is Entrepreneur.
This topic has been on my mind for awhile as SureSwift has rapidly grown and evolved over the past 3 years from an idea into a business, and now into a portfolio of more than 30 online companies with a team of 80 people across the globe supporting it.
What’s the Difference Between an Entrepreneur and a Founder?
Let’s look at the definition of a Founder.
noun: founder; plural noun: founders
a person who establishes an institution or settlement.
We’re not settling new lands here, so let’s ignore that part. “Establish an Institution.” That’s important — starting something new. The world is a better place when people start new businesses (or nonprofits, schools, etc.).
We have businesses in our portfolio that generate leads for SEO agencies, software that replaces manual data entry, and apps that turn your smartphone into a pocket payment processor. These companies were all founded by just one or two people who wanted to solve a problem and make things better.
But you can call yourself a Founder from the moment you have an idea, a company name, and a website. And we all know the stats on the success rate of new businesses. Building and sustaining a financially viable company is incredibly challenging, and it’s why many Founders will never make it past the idea stage.
Creating and operating a successful business is neither easy or simple. People who do that well deserve some applause.” – Tren Griffin Click to Tweet.
However, some, like the Founders we mentioned above, will take the next step. They’ll bootstrap their idea into a business. Maybe it will start as a side hustle and they’ll have to hang on to their day job. A small percentage will start making enough to quit the day job. An even smaller percentage will hire a few contractors and continue to grow.
At SureSwift, it’s usually around this stage of the business when our Founders realize they’re really Entrepreneurs and that they want to take this crazy journey all over again. In fact, wanting to start up a new project is the primary reason for the majority of our acquisitions.
So When Does a Founder Become an Entrepreneur?
Let’s take a look at what defines an Entrepreneur.
1. a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
2. a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.
3. an employer of productive labor.
To become an Entrepreneur is a different level. Really, it’s the next level.
To organize and operate a business that becomes bigger than you is one of the most rewarding and challenging things you can take on in the business world — it takes a special blend of persistence, caffeine, and insanity. Click to Tweet.
Coming up on our 32nd acquisition, we’re still working on perfecting that blend, but I think we’re getting pretty good at it.
To take on “greater than normal financial risks” in support of your goals is something the world really needs. If we don’t have people who are willing and able to take on those risks, we might just have a lot of ideas without enduring action and results.
From the beginning, we’ve used our own capital and only acquired profitable and stable companies, so while we’re a relatively new firm, we’ve managed a positive cash flow from each acquisition, and we invest money back into the companies we run so we can keep doing more for their customers.
An “employer of productive labor.” As awkward a phrase as that is, it’s pretty important! Entrepreneurs are the fuel of our economy. Think about all of the tech companies that started in someone’s garage that now employ thousands of people all over the world.
SureSwift started with just me and my Co-Founder, although I worked from my home office and coffee shops — much more comfortable than a garage. In less than 4 years, we’ve grown to a fully remote team of 80 people across 14 timezones who do amazing work for our customers every day (we’re hiring, by the way). And that part of our company’s journey — growing from two people to 80 — has been both the most challenging, and the most rewarding.
So a little less than 4 years ago, when SureSwift was just an idea and a website, I was able to call myself a Founder. And I’ll always remember the first day it was established — July 4th, 2015 — as my “Independence Day” from corporate America.
And two years ago, when it was clear this was going to be an enduring business with a growing portfolio and team, I felt like I was able to call myself a CEO.
But today, with a portfolio and team that are continuing to grow into something bigger than myself, and bigger than I ever imagined back on that first day, I’m able to call myself an Entrepreneur. And this is the title I’ll always be proudest of.