business owners hero

Are you a Hero, Headliner or Builder?

Entrepreneurs and business owners come in all shapes and sizes — they have different backgrounds, different aspirations and they work in all sorts of industries and spaces.

Despite all of those differences, however, there are also similarities. Simplistically, business owners come in one of three different types — and it’s their type, a combination of traits, that determines what kind of success they’ll have in the long run.

If you don’t know your type, it’s likely you’re unconsciously sabotaging your chances at long-term success.

The good news is these traits can be identified and changed (with effort) over time so they match up with where you want to be in the long term.

The first step is to identify where you are now. To get you started, here are the three archetypes that I commonly see in business owners.

The Hero

Most business owners start out as heroes. The hero’s mindset and approach is natural for starting up and gives you the best chance of early success.

However, continuing to play the hero after the first year or so in your business is a sure path to failure.

A hero, in business owner terms, is always on the front lines and is involved with every single important activity in your business. A hero may have employees, but those employees aren’t actually allowed to do any of the heavy lifting — all decisions go through the owner.  And when there’s an issue, a fire to fight, the hero will drop everything and take charge of the problem.

The hero is typically a slave to the business, works long hours, rarely takes time off and is constantly waiting for the big break. Real success is always “just around the corner” … one big client away from happening.

Prognosis for The Hero:

A hero’s success and longevity is tied to how much personal energy and drive they have … and the number of hours in a day. Typically, they’ll grow the business to the point where they are working 110 percent of their time, and then they’re stuck. There are no more hours in the day, and at some point they’ll be unable to keep up a 60+ hour a week pace, and they’ll shut things down.

In case it’s not clear: Playing the hero is a dead end for a business owner.

The Headliner

The Headliner is a variation of the hero but one that has a chance of a specific kind of long term success.

Like the hero, the headliner is the central point of their business — all key activities and decisions pass through the headliner. However, the headliner is also the reason for the success of the business. The headliner is an expert or a top-line performer and can do things that most others can’t do.

Most writers, artists and professional speakers are headliners — they are their business. They may have employee help, assistants, accountants, etc., but for all practical purposes, it’s just them. However, headliners can also be lawyers, plumbers, coaches, consultants — pretty much anyone who stands out as an “expert” in their field.

Prognosis for The Headliner:

For those headliners who have found a profitable niche where people will pay a lot for their skills, being a headliner can be a great business, albeit more of a lifestyle choice. The headliner is primarily trading time for money — although that hourly rate can often be pretty phenomenal.

If your goal is to make up to six figures, control your own destiny and to not mess around with building an organization or managing people, then being a headliner is a good choice.

The downside is that there is rarely anything to sell if you decide to wrap up your business, and you’re always “on.” If you ever hit an extended downturn (sick for six months, break a leg, etc.), then you won’t be making any money, and it may be difficult to ramp things back up to where they were.

The Builder

The last (and most challenging) business owner type is the builder. As you might expect from the name, builders are all about building their business — ultimately with the goal that it runs without them. A successful builder could take three or four months off and their business would continue functioning — and actually would grow in their absence.

Builders spend their time and efforts creating a business model that’s scalable. They invest in creating a leadership team empowered to make big decisions and handle issues (without input from the business owner). The owner’s primary role, beyond creating and leading the leadership team, is strategically improving the business: finding ways to drive more revenue and profits and identify areas of weakness.

Prognosis for The Builder:

When you’re just starting a business, as the owner you will have to do most of the things on your own (much like the hero). However, unlike the hero who just throws themselves at issues, the builder is constantly looking for opportunities to streamline, automate and delegate — and as soon as the revenue allows it, they hire and start delegating authority.

Because the outcome of a successful builder is a business that runs without day-to-day input from ownership, that business becomes a very valuable asset that can be sold. Alternatively, the owner can hang out indefinitely doing the parts of the business they enjoy because the business has been successfully designed to support them without requiring constant sacrifices.

It’s tough to be a builder, but the rewards are huge. Having said that, most business owners I talk to operate more like the hero rather than the builder.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Have you thought about it? What would it take for you to start being a builder? I’d love to hear your thoughts.