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Please Don't Call Yourself a Small-Business Owner What does that really mean, anyway? And do people really identify themselves like that?

By Gene Marks Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Upon a recent arrival at Heathrow Airport, the immigration officer looked over my passport and asked what I did for a living. A reasonable question. But how would you answer? Maybe you're a dentist, or you run a pizza shop. You can be an architect, or you're in the auto industry. Do you sell shoes?

Me? I'm in the technology business (I'm also a CPA, so sometimes I say that).

Would you ever reply that you're a "small-business owner?" I doubt that you would. I don't. And most of the business owners I meet, particularly my clients, wouldn't call themselves that either.

Related: Focus on Passion, Not Labels

That's because even though the media loves to call us "small-business owners," big companies devote their marketing and PR efforts towards "small business," politicians pander to the "small-business audience" and there are countless "small-business events" and organizations that serve the "small-business community," no one I know who runs a business ever refers themselves as a "small-business owner."

What does that even mean? The only people who call themselves that are the ones who have just quit their jobs, started up a business and are so proud that they love calling themselves a "small-business owner" -- or even worse, an "entrepreneur." Don't worry -- that wears thin after a few months of living life in the cold, hard world or the first customer doesn't pay their bill, whichever comes first.

Because I run a small business and write about small business, people sometimes ask me: "So, how are things out there for small business?" That's like asking "So, what's it like to be a Californian?" or "What's the best restaurant in Manhattan?"

Depending on who you ask, there are between 20 to 30 million small businesses in the U.S. alone. So how the hell do I know how they're all doing? Like recommending a restaurant, you can't just make a blanket statement about all small businesses. Depending on their industry, region, customers, management and technology, some do good, others do better, some fail. Referring to someone as a "small-business owner" is just too generic. A little ignorant, too.

Related: How Small Businesses Can Ease America's Job Shortage

Not only that, but calling me a small-business owner is kind of demeaning. When is "small" ever good in American society? We love big things. Super-sized meals. Giant stadiums. Grand ballrooms. Tall buildings. Large houses. Huge rock stars. When you call someone a "small" business owner you're immediately saying, "Oh, he's just the little guy. How adorable is that?"

Aren't we a little more important than that? Do we have to be referred to as "small"? Even calling oneself a "business owner" sounds vague and a little sketchy. "Yeah, I'm a business owner, y'see? I do a little bit of dis and a little bit of dat. You know -- export and import kind of stuff, you get me?"

Don't refer to yourself as a "small-business owner." Don't let other people call you that either. You are something. You are making something. You are providing a service. You are solving a problem. You are fulfilling a need. Do you want "small-business owner" on your tombstone?

No, you want to be remembered for what you did. You were a great accountant. You ran a popular restaurant. You owned a successful manufacturing firm. You served the equipment parts industry for 40 years. Your company cleaned offices. Sure, these are all small businesses, but you don't want to be known as a "small-business owner." You want to be known for what your small business did to make the world a little better.

So the next time you're at a party, networking event or conference and someone asks you what you do, don't ever say you're a "small-business owner." Say what you do.

Related: 3 Reasons Why You'll Never Be Super Successful

Gene Marks

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

President of The Marks Group

Gene Marks is president of The Marks Group, a ten-person Philadelphia-based consulting firm specializing in sales and marketing technologies. Gene is the author of six books, most recently, The Manufacturer's Book Of List (CreateSpace - October, 2013).

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