Business Owner or Entrepreneur - Which one are you & why does it matter blogpost for estate agents by Sam Ashdown

When you start a business from scratch, you’re full of entrepreneurial thoughts and challenges. Because you usually have little to lose, determined to bootstrap your way to success, it can be fun at first.

Then you spend years working hard, building a business you can be proud of. You have a bit of money in the bank, nice car, great house, and holidays to places that make your friends jealous on Instagram. Life is good. And you suddenly realise you’re not an entrepreneur any more; you’re a business owner.

So no longer do you take the crazy, risky entrepreneurial decisions you’ve previously taken to get to this point, because now, you want to defend your lifestyle.

Growth comes with sacrifice. It’s inevitable, which means:

  • You’re going to have to earn less in the short term to create more wealth in the long term.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re earning £10k a month, or £50k a month. Once you reach a certain level of financial comfort there’s rarely any difference in your lifestyle.
  • Growing a business means more staff, more resources, more systems – and more headaches. You have to believe that the view is worth the climb.

If you’re not from an entrepreneurial background, it’s hard to make big, scary, far-reaching decisions. It’s natural for you try to protect what you’ve built, especially if you have a less-than-affluent family background.



Are these statements true for you?

  • You’re motivated by money and your standard of living.
  • You’re happy with a modest level of business growth each year.
  • You’re reached a level of income you’re comfortable with.
  • You enjoy having a small team and a loyal client base.
  • You’re still doing most of the valuations and at least some viewings.

If the above statements describe you, then you’re more than likely a business owner.

If, on the other hand..

  • You enjoy creating something that doesn’t exist
  • You are determined to disrupt the market
  • You love changing the way we do things and are always coming up with new ideas
  • You are obsessive about business growth
  • You’re working your way out of the day-to-day activities in your business as fast as you can.

..then you’re an entrepreneur.

Most of the estate agents Phil and I meet are business owners, not entrepreneurs. This means their growth is limited, by choice. Those who have entrepreneurial tendencies join our AJ Mastermind to learn how to structure their agencies for maximum growth and a profitable future exit.

Phil and Sam at last week’s Carden Park Luxury Retreat with private members

Phil and I at last week’s Carden Park Luxury Retreat with our Private members



A business owner often gets stuck down the weeds, consumed by tasks that may be urgent, but they’re not important.

In his book, The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks describes work as falling into one of four zones:

     Zone of genius

     Zone of excellence

     Zone of competence

     Zone of incompetence

Zone of genius – someone who is operating at their highest level of performance, and brings their ‘A’ game to the task. Someone who seems to tackle the activity or responsibility effortlessly, and who enjoys feeling the success as they do it. I absolutely love building businesses. Although I do find it hard, it’s because I want to make sure I’m creating something truly special – mediocre isn’t good enough, it has to be differentiated and exceptional. Think of an artist, musician or sportsperson you admire, and see them in the moment of their best performance. That’s genius.

Zone of excellence – this is someone who is very good at their job, but who isn’t ‘in flow’ in the same way as they would be in their zone of genius. For me, this is design work. I know I’m pretty good at it, but I don’t seek it out, or do it in my spare time. If I know something needs designing, I’ll do it, but I have to roll my sleeves up and brace myself, as I find it a challenge, and not altogether an enjoyable one. Maybe for you it’s your company finances. Or recruitment. Or maybe you’re good at styling homes, but you don’t particularly love it. That’s something that’s in your zone of excellence.

Zone of competence – when we first start our agencies, we often spend a lot of time here, in the zone of competence. I know many agents who started off taking their own property photography, before finally realising what a terrible idea it was. If you’re a true entrepreneur, and not just an agency owner, it’s likely that most of the maintenance and delivery jobs in your agency fall into this zone. These are the responsibilities you need to delegate to someone who would love to do them, because they fall within their zone of genius.

Zone of incompetence – you really shouldn’t be doing anything at all in this zone, but you already know that. Point is, nor should your team members. If you’re honest with yourself, are any of your team doing jobs they really shouldn’t be doing because they’re rubbish at them? If so, is it a practice problem (ie if they practiced more they could move up a level or two) or is it a bad fit issue? If you’re not sure, ask them. Have an open and honest chat and ask them how they feel about the tasks they’re doing – particularly those they’re failing at. Chances are they’re not enjoying them (we rarely enjoy things we’re not very good at – with the exception of my singing) and there are tasks that would fall within their zone of excellence or genius if only you’d ask. Of course, it’s possible that the things they could do inside their zone of genius are actually not in your agency at all. Perhaps they’ve always wanted to be a train driver, a tightrope performer or a window cleaner. If so, it may be time to set them free to pursue their dreams, as they’ll never be fully happy with you, or fulfil their true potential.



  • Invest time in learning to develop yourself, your systems and your team
  • Pay attention to the things that matter – diet, fitness, family life, friends and hobbies
  • Get the discipline of habit. Do things every day that will make the boat go faster, and further
  • Step up and play a bigger game with courage
  • Learn how to be the leader your business needs
Sam Ashdown fabulous shot in Wansfell Lake District

Get outside and do something active!



A poor person is someone who spends their income and invests what’s left, while a rich person invests their income and spends what’s left.

When we apply this rule to the difference between a business owner and an entrepreneur, we see that business owners is someone who spends their time and money on the day-to-day running of their business, and invests what little time and money they have left on learning and self-development.

An entrepreneur, on the other hand, invests the majority of their time and money on growing themselves, and their businesses. They have coaches, they’re members of masterminds, they practice daily learning through books and podcasts. They have a voracious appetite for learning and ideation, and spend their days pursuing both.



If you’re a business owner who wants to be an entrepreneur, you need to act now. Stop settling for mediocrity. Get out of your comfort zone. Come join us on a FREE Behind the Scenes at AshdownJones day, at our HQ in Windermere. More info here – and take the first step to create something really special for the future, for your family and for your legacy. See you there!


Sam Ashdown and Phil Jones in AJ Mastermind Sept 2022

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