I had an interesting discussion with a relatively new franchise owner recently. (He’d been in about 18 months.)
His business, a commercial locksmithing/security franchise, is doing very well — which really vindicated his search approach. The primary thing he was looking for in a franchise was an industry that was “un-glamorous” — not sexy or flashy … the kind of work that people don’t particularly get excited about. His reasoning for that — which has paid off — is that there tends to be a lot more margin in work that has to be done but not a lot of people want to do it.
The other thing about his opportunity that I found interesting is that the franchise company was only looking for what he called “executive” operators. In this case, they would not award a franchise to anyone who was already a locksmith, instead focusing on potential owners who had demonstrated leadership, managerial and entrepreneurial backgrounds. The idea is that an owner who’s outside the industry will hire the needed expertise (and learn it along the way) and be able to do a much better job of staying focused on the big picture.
That makes a lot of sense … especially when I think about a couple of other discussions I had with business owners recently.
In those other two cases — both are small business owners who have businesses that are doing well but are also starting to stall. Growth has been pretty steady over the last couple of years, but both of those owners are feeling worn out and a bit overwhelmed. By asking a few questions and digging into what was going on, it was clear that they are the heart and soul of their business — they’re involved in most of the work and all of the important decisions.
In short: They are driven by their Technician, and it’s hurting their business.
Too Much Technician?
Way back in the 1980’s, Michael Gerber wrote what many consider to be the “entrepreneurial bible”: “The E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It.”
One of the many ideas that he brought out in that book is that every business owner must have a mix of three personalities: the Technician, the Manager and the Entrepreneur.
- The Technician is all about doing the work. Focused on industry details and knowledge, the Technician spends time doing the work.
- The Manager is all about creating the best environment for getting the most work done. Focused on systems, processes and metrics, the manager wants to make sure the work is getting done in a timely and profitable way.
- The Entrepreneur is all about imagining what’s possible. Responsible for the big picture vision and strategy, the Entrepreneur is constantly looking for ways to make it easier to do the work (automation, partnerships) and to improve the overall business model.
In order to create a successful, long-term business, you need the right mix of all three personalities — and that mix will change with the maturity of the business.
An initial startup of most businesses will require a lot of the Technician — if it’s a one-person business, then someone has to do the work, and that’s where the technician shines.
However, if you want to scale, you’ll be hiring additional people, and if you want to be effective, you’ll need systems and processes for that team to work together … and you’ll need to actively manage the whole situation. Obviously, that’s where the Manager comes into play.
But it’s the Entrepreneur who really makes the difference when it comes to long-term growth and success. Creating a vision and culture that inspires the employees to work together requires an Entrepreneur. Identifying strategic partnerships, improving the business model, proactively recognizing industry changes — all done by the Entrepreneur.
That’s why those franchise operations are only bringing on franchisees who are former executives. They won’t be weighed down by the Technician (because they don’t have that background), and they’ll be strong managers and strategic thinkers.
This model also explains why the other two business owners are struggling. They are spending all of their time working in the business rather than on the business. They have way too much Technician, and even though they are doing great work, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to expand the business without breaking their current model (and taking on more of the Entrepreneur).
What can you do?
It’s cliché but true: The first step in solving a problem is admitting that you have one. As a business owner who’s struggling to grow the business, you need to figure out if you’re too much of a technician. Are you too far into the details and the day-to-day work? Does work get done that you aren’t part of? Are you comfortable letting someone else talk to your customers or do the really important work? If your answer is “no,” then it’s time to admit that your Technician is running the show.
If you can get to that point, then it’s time to start imagining how the work might get done without you. Do you have anyone on the team who can do what you can do and acheive at least 80 percent of your output? What would it take to hand that work over to them? Do you need to hire someone to do that work? That likely will cost you money in the short run, but it’s the only way to grow … and if you bring on the right person, you should quickly be able to make more money.
Another step to consider: Can you block out at least 4 hours a week that you can spend just thinking about and working on the big picture of your business? How can you improve it? Is everyone you’ve currently got doing a great job right now? If not, what do you need to do about it?
Is your technician running your business? What do you think about this idea? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Shawn Kinkade, Kansas City Business Coach