Parag Prasad is an award-winning business coach and author of the London Business Coaching blog. To read more great articles visit www.londonbusinesscoaching.com or connect with them on Facebook here.
As a business coach, my job is to coach the owners of small businesses on ways to overcome the problems that are holding them back. I’ve worked with a lot of technical founders – brilliant hackers, programmers, and designers. These are exactly the kind of people who like to start businesses. However, I find it difficult to think of a single example of one that hasn’t suffered, to some extent, from the problem I’m going to discuss here. It’s the issue of very talented and intelligent technical people not getting the business side of things. If this sounds at all like you, keep on reading.
A current client of mine and good friend, Paul Lindsell, runs a creative design agency based in East London, where his team design websites and online marketing material. He explains:
“Capsule01 was founded in 1996 by creative and technical professionals, not businessmen. Although we had an entrepreneurial spirit we didn’t really understand the ins and outs of running a business”
The solution to this problem was beautifully explained and popularised in 1986 by Michael E. Gerber in his book The E-Myth Revisited (the ‘E’ stands for entrepreneur). If I could choose one book that every business owner had to read, this would be a very strong contender. I like it that much.
The kind of technical and creative expert that usually founds a business will normally have a certain personality type and mindset. Gerber calls it the Technician mindset: someone who is an expert in their craft; someone who suffers for their art and is most content when doing what they are an expert at. Often they will see themselves as anti-conformists, and build their self-esteem around being the best there is in their particular field of expertise. Every great entrepreneur has this side of their personality, but the problem is… time.
With only 24 hours in a day, there’s only so much building, programming and designing one technical genius can do – no matter how good they are. For a business to grow in size and profitability, the founders’ expertise and time must be leveraged. The way this is done is if the expert invests time in designing systems, manuals, and processes that make it possible for other employees to work at their level. Note: this isn’t how the expert wants to spend their time, it goes against their Technician mindset. To bring this down to a more practical level, here’s an example – I always suggest that founders start off by deciding what roles their company will need as it grows.
Perhaps you can handle marketing on your own, now but, as your business expands, will you need a Marketing Manager? What about a Business Development Manager? What about Sales People? Or Customer Service Staff? When you first start out, you will fill all these roles yourself, but as your company expands, you need to design systems and write manuals that let people with limited technical expertise, product knowledge, and industry knowledge take over these roles. You need to, as Gerber puts it, “replace yourself with a system”. That way, parts of the business start running without you. Give yourself the time to work exclusively ON the business instead of IN the business, and you’re finally an entrepreneur.
I will finish this with another quote from Paul Lindsell, the techie turned entrepreneur that I mentioned at the start…
“We now spend every Thursday routinely working on the business, not in the business. We’ve also now learned and evolved our own sales funnel and process – which is something we didn’t have before. All our numbers are tracked and measured so we always know where we are with things.
Over the last 6 months, we’ve achieved some fantastic results – we’ve had increased profit margins, we’ve now got recruitment processes in place and just generally the whole team has had a real confidence boost.”
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