The Roles of a Business Owner

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To run a successful business means to be good in many areas. Starting with developing the right ideas to managing the existing infrastructure and the technical aspect of the day to day work. Each of those areas requires different skills, but all of them together are vital to run a successful business.

That means every business owner has to fulfil the following roles:

  • Entrepreneur
  • Manager
  • Technician

The thing is, each of those doesn’t like the other. The entrepreneur is always looking for the new, the right idea. He is a dreamer, imagining the next big thing and continually looking to grow and bring a new change. While the manager has enough with how things are right now. He wants it all to run smoothly and doesn’t like constant changes. For him, it is essential to create structure and processes, and any change causes a problem. The technician, on the other hand, doesn’t care about any of it as long as his job is done by the end of the day. He creates his list and works each item off. When it is all done, everything is fine.

They all don’t work very well with each other. Each has different ideas about a successful day and what is important and what is not. Imagine all three in one person. It doesn’t matter in which of the roles he slips; he will have the other two against him. Understanding which role is important at which stage of the business and how to make them work together is the base of success. During the life cycle of a business, they all need each other on equal parts to make it work.

Every day’s Business

A typical scenario I find in new clients is what I call the technician game. After the initial setup of the company, the technician takes over. At the beginning everything is great. It is the technician’s job to do the work, and nothing is too much. Everything is seen optimistic, and so the technician works ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. He even works on holidays if required. All his thoughts and feelings are around the new business. He is consumed, totally emerged and does whatever it takes to keep the business alive. You can spot a new business run by a technician easily – the owner and the business are the same things. If you remove the owner, the business will disappear.

At the beginning all of this is great. New customers are coming, and the business starts to take off. After a while, he realises that things are changing. There is too much work to do. The customers want everything now. They want him, they need him, and he spoils them as much as he can. And then it happens, the first mistakes. It’s just too much. It is impossible to do this all. Slowly his business becomes difficult. Deliveries once early, are now late. Nothing seems to work as it did at first. Now he works harder, fourteen or even sixteen hours a day, but he still falls behind. The beginning phase of a business ends when the owner realises that he can’t continue like this. That’s when most businesses fail. The technician burns-out and leaves the premises.

If he doesn’t fail and moves on to the next stage, he’ll come to the point when he realises he needs help. He needs someone with experience in his kind of business. Someone who can do the things he doesn’t like to do. The sales oriented technician will go out and find a production person and the production-oriented technician a salesperson. And almost everyone is trying to find someone to do the books. He gets his first employee and slowly moves into the role of a manager, leaving the role of technician behind. This is new to him, and he isn’t really prepared for it. He starts offloading more and more onto his employee(s), takes longer lunches and goes home earlier. And then it happens. The first complaints come in. His customers are not happy with the service. They want him back. In the beginning, he tries his best to talk to his staff and train them on how to do it. But in the end, he realises, only he can do the job right. So he interferes with everything and everyone. In the end, he’s a technician, and it is hard to change.

The Second Stage

This is the second stage, where businesses can fall apart. To continue from here, he will have to learn to become a real manager or to go back to his roots and take it all back. It happens more often as you might think. His role has to change, and he has to accept his new position.

The Entrepreneur

The next stage is the entrepreneur. His job is to engage the managers behind his vision. This role is always around but often pushed back as it is seen as a disturbance.

We get lost in our day to day work, and we miss the switch. Or we are scared and worry that others can never do it as well as we do. We can’t get out of our current role, but it is essential to understand that a business owner presents all roles at all stages of the business. Only if you think like an entrepreneur, develop structure like a manager and work as a technician at every stage will you be able to manage the change with ease. If you fall into one corner, you will struggle to make it big and survive. And let’s be clear, the only real way to survive is by growing and making it big.

If you struggle with the technician syndrome, lost the drive and struggle to make it every day, get yourself a good business coach. He should be able to help you to see the other side and to gain a new perspective. Working 16 hours a day is not the end and not the solution.

Which role are you playing right now?

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium. He is teaching and supporting entrepreneurs in the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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