Three key attributes of an entrepreneur, why most small business don’t work?

This entry is inspired by Michael Gerber’s book called „The E-Myth”. The subtitle of the book is „Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to do About It” and it focuses, as it was said, mainly on small enterprises ? Startup has a little different working scheme from a traditional small company (e.g. a bakery). However, there are some entrepreneur’s attributes which, in my opinion, in both cases are crucial to run a company well.

Majority of startups or traditional companies start with an idea of one or several people. For example, somebody is keen on car repair and decides to set up a garage repair shop. Another person is interested in IT and decides to create websites. In other words – a company is set up by a so called technical specialist.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with it. I think that every one of us choosing a car workshop would like the mechanic to be competent, preferably interested in his job and keen on it. In one of the previous entries I have written that passion is one of the most important elements of creating a company. It is completely natural to follow your interests and dreams when setting up a business.

The problem is that running a business is not just about doing your job well. When opening a cake shop, baking the best cakes in the whole town won’t do. If your mother’s preserves are praised by your whole family and everybody keeps on saying that they have never eaten anything tastier, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your mother would achieve financial success if she decided to set up a shop and sell them. Why?

Running a company you are no longer just a technical specialist who knows his or her field of expertise (e.g. mother who bakes great cakes or a mechanic who can construct a car out of 10 crashed cars) you become an entrepreneur and the technical specialist is just one of three personalities, the other two are: a manager and a visionary. All three are really helpful in running a company.

A visionary notices unique possibilities even in ordinary things and difficulties. He lives the future, seeks changes, makes use of countless possibilities that he sees. He is everywhere and people surrounding him want him in their projects. He leaves others behind , but the further he gets, the bigger amount of effort he puts in pulling the whole army.

He also has the need to control people and events in order to be sure that everybody goes along with his dreams. He bullies, criticizes, flatters, rushes, shouts and promises, just to get his project over.

A manager plans, organizes, wants predictability. He keeps the screws at home and put them in adequately marked drawers. He hangs his shirts in a wardrobe with buttons set in the same direction.

Unlike the entrepreneur, the manager lives the past. He wants arrangement instead of control. He notices problems instead of possibilities. After building a house he lives in it for the rest of his life, by contrast to the entrepreneur who sells it and buys another one. He cleans up the mess made by the entrepreneur who made a fuss.

There’s still one type of personality – the one the whole entry started with. And this is a technical expert who knows his field of expertise. This is an IT specialist repairing computers, a baker baking bread, and a mechanic repairing cars.

He is primarily a creator – his motto is „if something is supposed to be done well, do it on yourself”. He DIYs, repairs, improves. He feels happy when he can do one thing at a time and when he fully controls his work.

Thinking is unproductive for him – unless he thinks about the job he has to do. Abstract ideas seem suspicious to him. He stands tall – he knows that if he doesn’t do something, nobody else will. Something that does not look like work is something strange to him. He is frustrated with visionaries, who interfere with his daily work with their new ideas, similarly to the managers, who dictate working terms and treat him like a small element of a much bigger system.

If every entrepreneur consisted in equal proportions of these three personalities, he would have a chance to set up a prospective company. The visionary would start new ideas, the manager would take care of efficient organization, and the specialist would do technical work. But in practice, in case of small companies, the typical owner is usually 10% visionary, 20% manager, and 70% expert.

It leads to the situation in which a technical expert is so devoted to his work that he doesn’t only work all day, but he eventually works all night too. Stress gets into his life, deadlines start to urge him, the quality of work declines.

In cases of startups, we usually deal with a team – two, three, four cofounders. It’s hard to combine all three attributes together in one person – and it’s also hard to expect one person to have so many duties. In case of a higher number of cofounders, it’s worth if they complement each other.

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We can distinguish three roles here:

1. The person focused on the vision

He never runs out of ideas, dreams big, and he is going to conquer the world. He answers the question „Why?” – to make people live better, to revolutionize the way of communicating, to let people reach any corner of the world in an exceptionally short time.

2. The person focused on the product

He is primarily interested in what a startup can offer. At work, he answers the question „What?” – a new drug, a new chatting application, a new supersonic airliner.

3. The person focused on technical aspects

He is focused on what to do in order to make everything work. He is often the only person in the company who understands why particular machines work and it is him who is asked for help by everybody if something stops working. He answers the question „How?” – such a tool development technology, such drivers, such gear wheels. He makes sure that everything works properly.

It’s extremely important in a startup, to have people in whom it’s possible to find all those points. A startup only with visionaries will have its head in the clouds and it will conquer the world but there will be no-one to organize things and to do the job. If we focus only on the product, it can turn out that we will create something useless that will be thrown into the trash. And if we focus only on technical aspects, we will be able to create an efficiently working and extremely complex combine harvester but nobody will hear about it or only the one who created it will understand its meaning.

Answering the question in the title – I think that when setting up a company one has to either work on those qualities that are not his asset, or he has to find people who can complement him . I believe that you can learn everything and it’s just a matter of effort and time , but sometimes it can be really hard. It can be so hard that before we develop those attributes , the company will go through serious crisis .A good alternative would be to set up a business with people who have these attributes. Although you will still need to learn how to cooperate, mainly how to talk to each other. People looking at the world from different perspectives will often not understand each other – and this is unfortunately the seeds of conflict.

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