I have often been part of a civic group discussing how to assist the growth of small businesses in the community. The word entrepreneur is commonly used by members of the group, but it seems that the term means different things to different people. Some define an entrepreneur as anyone who goes into business for themselves. That could be anyone who decided to start a business cutting lawns or washing cars. These are all noble businesses and do provide income for their owners, but it seems that this type of entrepreneurship is not the type celebrated widely. There needs to be more to it than providing a service or several jobs.
In his book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber provides some insights to entrepreneurship and steps a business goes through from conception to long-term success. Three different personalities are described, each part of the maturation process in a business. The first is the technician. They are the people doing the work and are prominent as a business gets started. The second is the manager, who becomes important as a larger staff is required and organization is important. Finally the third, is the entrepreneur, who guides the business into new areas and assures its long-term success. If you have been a part of a new business and watched it mature, you would appreciate Michael Gerber’s observations.
The technician, in most cases, is the person who starts the business. They most likely are working for someone else and wants to strike out on their own. They see owning their own business as a financial opportunity. Why should they do all the work and the owner reap the financial success? Now the technician in a bakery is the one who bakes the bread. In an auto shop, they are the ones who fix and service the cars. They are the workers. They love doing the job, but don’t want someone else telling them what to do and how to do it.
As the business grows, the technician finds that they cannot do all the work themselves and have to bring in someone to help them. That help may be in the form of a sales person, a clerk, or front desk person. Regardless of the position, this helper is another technician. At this point, the founder of the business starts to become a manager. They may continue to spend their time as the technician, but are slowly but surely becoming the boss. There is the management of the people issues, like some not coming to work. There is the need to set rules and procedures, so that the quality of the product or service is maintained. Organization becomes important.
As it is inevitable in any business, change occurs. New competitors come into the market. The services provided change. There are changes in the demographics of an area. This business now needs an entrepreneur. The technician does the work. The manager provides the organizational and control needed to make the company run well. The entrepreneur guides the company towards new opportunities for future success. He understands the needs of the market and how those needs can be converted into future business. The entrepreneur has a vision for the future and, depending on the situation, understands the need to break from the status-quo..
As we work with businesses, we see all three personalities. The most common is the technician. The technician can be trapped in a situation of their own making. The company is not growing and faced with continuing crisis often caused by its inability to attract good people. There are no rules to follow, only blaming from the owner when the desired results are not achieved. The owner cannot understand when people do not meet up to his expectations. The company may grow for a time, but often plateaus when the weakness of management causes a period of success to reverse itself.
In other situations, a manager emerges and the company is successful over a period of time. The firm grows and prospers as the manager organizes the firm’s operations and builds a team of dependable employees. The success can continue for years as long as the market remains stable, and the status-quo is maintained. A good manager is critical to the success of any company.
In our 21st Century business and economic environment, change is not the exception to the rule but is the rule. The status-quo needs to be constantly changed. Is the way we do business today, going to be the way we will do business a year or two from now? This becomes the role of the entrepreneur, to chart the path to a company’s long-term success. He must rely on the technician to do the work and the manager to keep things organized, while he or she investigates the possibilities and creates a new vision for the future. Not all companies have people who have the entrepreneurial drive, but those who will be around over the long-term do.