Are You a Management Consultant or an Entrepreneur? This simple test may predict which way you are wired.

By Steve VanderVeen

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Expert entrepreneurs are a rare breed, gifted in unique ways. But those gifts don't make them better or worse than everyone else, just different. An overly simplistic way to understand that difference is to ask the question, "Are you a management consultant or an entrepreneur?"

Related: Eight Hacks To Management Consulting

In the simplistic model I visualize to answer that question, entrepreneurs who are expert at what they do allow others to have a diverging influence on them, to help them create opportunities based on their varied micro-level experiences.

Management consultants, in contrast, have a converging influence on others, based on their analysis of macro-level trends.

Drawing from Saras Sarasvathy's seminal book Effectuation: Elements of Entrepreneurial Expertise, I offer the following set of questions to help you determine your role. This quiz is qualitative and directional, not quantitative and predictive. And there are no "right" answers.

Instead, if you agree with the first half of each phrase in the questions below, organized into three categories, your worldview, process and behavior may be more reflective of expert entrepreneurs than management consultants.

Related: 50 Signs You Might Be an Entrepreneur

What is your world view?

  • Do you believe reality is "open" and "still in-the-making," or is it fixed and predetermined?
  • Do you believe opportunities are created or outside of your control? Do you believe markets are made or found? Do you think successful businesses make opportunities or exploit them?
  • Is failure something to be valued or something to be feared?

What process do you employ?

  • Do you begin the creative process with who you are, what you know, and whom you know; or do you analyze your environment?
  • When you work with others, are you influenced by their ideas or do you hold fast to your original vision?
  • Do you look for solutions within problems or problems within solutions?

What values guide your creative behavior?

  • Do you value doing more than planning?
  • What is more important to you: what you might lose or your expected returns?
  • Do you work with others because they share your excitement, or do you work with others because they will get you where you want to go?

Admittedly, these are simplistic questions and assumptions on my part, and in no way should they reflect negatively on Sarasvathy's work. But only by asking them can we begin to understand who we are, which is valuable in understanding what we might do. One role is not necessarily better than the other. We can all add value to the lives of others.

Clearly, management consultants need expert entrepreneurs, and expert entrepreneurs need management consultants. But this dichotomy is only an analogy. My worldview? God created us to complement and compliment others. To know how to do those things, we first need to know how we are wired.

Related: Are You An Entrepreneur Or a 'Wantrepreneur'?

Steve VanderVeen

Professor of Management and Director of Center for Faithful Leadership at Hope College

Steve VanderVeen is a professor of management and director of the Center for Faithful Leadership at Hope College in Holland, Mich. He teaches various project-based leadership courses and serves students in the the center's entrepreneurial development and student consulting programs.

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