Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vision vs. Planning vs. Doing: The battle within us all

I've gained great business insights from The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber. One of these insights speaks to the three "personalities" that are at odds within all business owners and leaders: the Entrepreneur, the Manager, and the Technician. Relating them to daily activity, they correspond to envisioning, planning, and doing. Those who work with them will have a successful business/career and enjoy a good time/money balance in their lives. Those who don't will either make themselves miserable, everyone around them miserable, or both.

The crux of Michael's argument is (a) it takes all three personalities to build a successful business and (b) the three personalities are different and will always be at odds with one another. Interestingly enough, each of these personalities should not be regarded as the same person in different moods, but as different people who take over at different times. It's just like the struggle we all have with exercise - there's a disciplined guy and a couch potato living in me, they're always at odds, and if I'm not careful the wrong one will take over.
  • The Entrepreneur is the visionary... the one who has a great idea and takes the time to map it all out in a business plan.
  • The Manager is the planner - the one who keeps an entrepreneur's vision moving in a positive direction. They set up the real-world framework in which the business runs and insure that it all stays together.
  • The Technician is the doer - one who actually does the work that goes to the customer. They don't care about all the behind the scenes stuff - they just want to do the work!
Here's where it gets applicable. Too many times, the people who call themselves entrepreneurs aren't really entrepreneurs but are technicians who had a short-term entrepreneurial seizure. They got really good at the tasks comprising their job and wanted to eliminate the people that were gaining from the fruits of their labor, so they hung out their own shingle. They worked hard on their business until the phones began to ring (aka customers!) and then they worked hard in their business and never looked back. Unfortunately, as word got out about how good they were at the work (Technician), they became consumed in delivering their phenomenal service... alone or with assistance by their side. Without time to spend on the vision (Entrepreneur) and planning (Manager) activities to scale the business and bring in more talent, they eventually burned out. The lucky ones sold their businesses to a true entrepreneur and the unlucky ones imploded.

So what is one to do? The key is to live above the moment... to manage business activities rather than being managed by them.
  • In the early stages, when it really is all up to the owner, one must recognize what their business needs and be willing to be who the business needs most at that stage. It may mean less Technician time and fewer customers for a season... but they'll be happier customers and the owner's commitment to maintaining service levels will be rewarded.
  • As expansion becomes possible, it means finding the right people to fill the roles the organization needs most and investing (heavily) to teach them their job role. This will most likely be technicians (doers) first, and it's critical that service delivery standards be clearly understood so that the customers accept these changes.
  • As growth continues, the owner must find the absolute best talent to fill the Manager roles and must stay heavily engaged with these people. THEY are the key to mastering the time/money equation. THEY will be the ones who eventually do the hiring and build and manage the operation of the business. And THEY are the ones who can sink the business if the owner doesn't remain engaged.
Regardless of one's business phase, the personalities will never go away. Different voices will call loudly at different times. Again, the key is to step out of the moment and decide which person will take charge. When executed properly, as things grow the owner will reach a point in which they're always working on the business but only work in the business when they choose to.
In closing, I'll share that this concept resonates with me where I am. It takes a conscious effort to maintain balance in my business. Promoting Technology RE Advisors, maintaining prior client and prospect relationships, and delivering our service to active clients all require different skill sets, and I'm a living testimony that inertia can pull pretty hard if not understood and managed. As they say, understanding the problem is 80% (90%?) of the cure. I'm grateful to Michael for shining some light on these personnas.

I wish you the best in your endeavors.