Realizing Your Entrepreneurial Vision
Question: Can you become a successful entrepreneur?
Answer: Yes, but you can't do it alone. Entrepreneurs begin by creating a vision. The vision states what your company does, why it is in business and what it will achieve. From this vision, a company strategy emerges. It describes the actions the company will take to make the vision a reality. Your company's future pain and success is a function of 1) whether your vision serves the needs of the marketplace and 2) how successfully your company implements its strategy.
Michael Gerber, an entrepreneurial leader and author of the popular E-Myth series of books, says company founders begin as "Three-people-in-one" - Entrepreneurs, Managers and Technicians. At best, trying to be all three results in stagnation; more commonly, it results in business failure.
Entrepreneurs Live their Vision
The Entrepreneur guides and nurtures the vision of the company. Many times the Entrepreneur and the initial brand are synonymous. An Entrepreneur sells everyone on their vision of the future. They sell their employees, customers, prospects, suppliers, alliance partners, bankers, investors and anyone else remotely involved in the success of their venture. In my experience, when an Entrepreneur spends 70-80% of their time crusading for the business, the company's revenue grows. Conversely, if the Entrepreneur spends only 20-30%, the company begins to slide into financial ruin.
Today's Entrepreneurs must understand their strengths and create alliances that can compensate for their weaknesses. One cannot do it alone. Some insightful company founders realize that although they developed the company's vision, their on-going role is Technician. For example, Edwin Land wanted to be an inventor, not run the company. He found others to lead his vision for the Polaroid Corporation.
Managers measure success
Companies need Managers. Managers lead a specific function within the company, e.g. sales, accounting, marketing, finance, IT. Managers compare past performance to strategic goals to determine their function's success. Sales Managers establish the parameters that will be tracked in sales reports. For example, the manager will measure indicators such as the number of leads generated, closure rate, actual sales, customer retention, and new customers. The Accounting Manager reviews the accounting numbers generated by the bookkeeper to determine the company's financial performance.
Typically, Entrepreneurs are not suited to be Managers; they do not have the patience to spend on details nor the time for endless meetings. In fact, many Entrepreneurs resent the misuse of any time when they aren't living their vision. To an Entrepreneur, sitting in a meeting that tracks marketing results or IT indicators is analogous to driving 100 miles per hour while looking in the rear view mirror.
Technicians do the physical work
The Technician performs the actual work of the company. For a software company, the Technicians are the engineers or support people. For a manufacturing plant, the Technicians are the workers on the factory floor. The wait staff and the cooks are the Technicians for a restaurant. Many Entrepreneurs start their careers as technicians. Once they have created the vision for the future, they leave the details to other Managers and Technicians.
Running the Mobius Strip
The vision starts with the Entrepreneur, who brings his ideas to the marketplace and creates the business relationships that will make the vision possible. Selling the world on this vision is the goal of the Entrepreneur. Sales are a scorecard of the Entrepreneur's vision, strategy, and leadership.
In the beginning of the company, the Entrepreneur performs all three roles. As sales increase, the Entrepreneur is dragged into the details. They find themselves performing the Manager's job, or the Technician's duties and losing focus on their Entrepreneurial role. When the vision isn't being sold to the world, the company stagnates. Entrepreneurs who find themselves being overwhelmed by details and who are not ready to hire employees to do the Manager's and Technician's roles can benefit from creating alliances.
How many Entrepreneurs have missed their son's football games, or daughter's soccer games? A dilemma emerges as the Entrepreneur sells the vision, manages one or more functions and works the floor. Vacations become a fading thought. Blood pressure rises. They run on a mobius strip. Every day, every month, all year long they find themselves traversing an endless loop. They are busy, but not making progress toward their vision.
Implementing the Vision
The smart Entrepreneur realizes that he or she needs assistance to implement the vision. In his best selling book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss recommends outsourcing many tasks. In other words, do what you love, and find others to do the rest of the work.
To avoid the Mobius strip, Entrepreneurs must identify the problem; resume being the visionary; and find people to conduct each required role. Learn to tap into your inner strength and use the power of others.
Sick people go to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Similarly, Entrepreneurs can consult with advisors who will review the symptoms, diagnose the problem and recommend a cure.
Insightful Entrepreneurs learn the power of strategic alliances to realize their vision. Alliances can be found anywhere your customers live, play and work.
Find an experienced advisor or group of advisors - people who have been there, done that. Then the Entrepreneur can maintain the vision, create the ideas, lead the crusade and become the catalyst for the future. This increases sales, aligns the company to its vision and makes the competition irrelevant. Success goes to the Entrepreneur singing the vision to the world.