Updated: Apr 6
“If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business – you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic!”
Running a business and being really good at your role, technically, are two completely separate skill sets – not to mention incredibly difficult to perform at the same time. In fact, having the technical skills to do your job well does little to teach you how to grow your business over the long term.
So, do you have a job? Or are you a business owner?
In today’s blog, we’re exploring the differences between doing the job and being the owner, and how being a technician might not be enough to run your business.
A COMMON MISCONCEPTION
Why is it that so many businesses fall flat on their faces before they’ve had a chance to really reach their potential? It’s simple – being great at doing a particular job doesn’t instantly translate into being great at running a business. They are two very different things.
Most people think that technical skills are the sole prerequisite for starting up a business. But nothing could be further from the truth. Think about it for a second. Let’s say you’re an experienced boat mechanic starting your own business – what do you know about running a team of staff? Or finances? Or balancing overheads? Advertising? Structure and systems? The answer is, not much!
Starting a business is a quantum leap in level. You go from doing the work, to suddenly becoming the CEO, CFO, and every other 3 letter acronym there is within a business. What’s your strategy?
SYSTEMS, SYSTEMS, SYSTEMS
There is a reason why McDonald’s franchises are so successful. A new owner is given a tried and proven set of systems that covers everything from ordering produce, to training staff, balancing the books and customer service. It’s literally a handbook on how to run a thriving McDonald’s restaurant. The mother company has everything tuned to run so smoothly that a franchise can be handed over with a guaranteed recipe for success.
Starting a small business should be approached in the same way. Think of your business as a national franchise, only you’re the first cab off the rank. Prior planning is an absolute must unless you enjoy playing catch up. Systemizing everything will draw your attention away from the day-to-day operational side of things, and free up your time and effort to focus on the important part – growing the business.
Never be afraid of seeking professional guidance, as there are a multitude of successful systems out there, and even more business coaches eager to show you the ropes – for a fee of course.
Then again, you can do it yourself. After all, you have the technical expertise, and you know what’s needed from staff to keep the customers coming back. Write employee training manuals with the exact same tried and proven steps you did every day when you were working that same job. The end goal here is that every customer has the same positive experience, and that those translate into reliable and predictable results for your budding business.
THE STRUCTURE OF SYSTEMS
Now, you’ve recognized that your expertise alone isn’t going to cut it in your business – so you’ve educated yourself on systems. You’ve designed a few yourself, and probably have sought out the help of an expert to make sure you have it all covered. But now comes the tricky part – building a system of systems.
There are three kinds of systems that make up a business. Hard systems like point-of-sale software, soft systems like setting the work attitude policy for your employees, and information systems which include things like training manuals, collected data on sales and retention, and the way your administration pays employees and suppliers.
These systems should run smoothly together, but also be so independent that making a change or swapping out one part does not affect the other cogs in the machine. By developing a system of systems, you’re further removing yourself from the technical work aspect of your business, and into the entrepreneurial side of things. Working for yourself, versus being a business owner.
WHAT IT DOESN’T TELL YOU
Going from technically gifted worker, to aspiring business owner, to systems user, and then systems master is fairly straightforward, but how do you scale up as you progress your business to the next level?
Changing your mentality, your approach to how you perceive and treat your business will absolutely lead to growth. But is that growth sustainable, and have you put in the necessary groundwork so that this newfound success doesn’t overwhelm you and swallow up your business whole?
How do you scale between these levels effectively?
Too many entrepreneurs play the role of the glass half full, idealistic visionary – then crack under the pressure. This may come as a result of the day-to-day grind, the whirlwind, finally bogging them down until all they can see is orders, invoices, and customer inquiries – before losing sight of the bigger picture. Eventually the entrepreneur runs out of hours in the day and everything starts to unravel.
Scaling is all about how a business builds in capability to cope with an increased workload, and how well it performs while expanding and, in the time, afterwards. By having solid hard, soft, and information systems in place, a business should, by all accounts, be able to at least maintain its level of performance as demands become larger – if not actually become more efficient.
This is the problem. Most entrepreneurs start out as the technician, the person who either develops the product, or knows how to sell the product. The worker who is fantastic at their job. But there is little in this skillset to scale effectively. Likewise, the entrepreneur could be the visionary, the idea generating machine, who has their head up in the clouds thinking about all the business could be – without actually having a clue of what’s needed to get there. To transition between levels, there has to be a conscious decision made to seek out a person who is purpose built for management – the integrator.
Integrators are a bit of a rare breed. They rarely start businesses, even though they’re vital to their success. They lack the imagination to be the visionary, and the intimate product knowledge and know how to be the technician. But what they do know is systems – like the back of their hands.
Having a great product doesn’t make a successful business, nor does having clear goals. Businesses are won and lost in the trenches – and the integrator is the one with the shovel. Creating the systems needed to propel their business forward as the technician or the visionary works at the start, but pretty soon the attention to detail that’s required exceeds what they’re able to produce.
A suggestion could be seeking out the services of a professional, which is great to get the actual systems and learn how to incorporate them into a business but there is one glaring omission – who. Who is the person that will oversee all this? Certainly not the entrepreneur, they’re going to be either focused on growing the business, or looking after the product line or services provided.
A small business looking to level up has to make the decision to bite the bullet and invest some time looking for the integrator who is the best fit for their business – both on a personal level, and a professional level. Ideally this will be the person who challenges the visionary to slow down and consolidate, or who gives the technician a push to grow when the time is right. The integrator isn’t there to sell, they aren’t there to grow, their sole job is to put a replicable set of systems in place and ensure that all employees – even the CEO and CFO – either toe the line, or find themselves another job.
Sure, there will be conflict and arguments between the integrator and technician/visionary, but it’s healthy. The integrator is like the carbon control rod in the nuclear reactor that slows down the fission reaction to produce power, or else it will go critical and explode!
As business consultants and COOs, we work with entrepreneurs every day to set them up for success by identifying where their business is suffering. We help them pinpoint which processes to re-evaluate and adjust to grow their business. And best yet… We offer hassle-free, no obligation 30-minute discovery calls to see how we could help you. Just email us today.
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