One day my friend didn’t have a ride home, so I offered to drop him off. Not only am I a huge fan of his illustrations, but in a recent chef competition, he cooked the most amazing pasta entrée I had ever tasted. After talking about comics and noodles, we started discussing his future and he mentioned he wanted to open a restaurant.
Let’s call him Sam. Sam had great ideas about the logo design he wanted. He had the technical skills, he knew about branding, and was a good team leader. He had everything he needed to start a business, right?
Wrong. I told him his dream would collapse. Further, once he started his restaurant, he would get sick of cooking — a hobby he loves right now. He looked at me cynically thinking I was discouraging him from taking a bold step.
“No,” I told him. “It’s just that you think you can be a worker, a manager and a business owner all at the same time. It’s not humanly possible to be your own boss and not face internal conflict.”
Be his own boss? Conflict within himself? He didn’t quite get it. So, I explained what I’ve read in Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth Revisited.
Work On Your Business, Not In It
First: We all have an entrepreneur within us.
However, the problem is that we have a technician and a manager in us as well.
Often, we don’t recognize these micro-personalities within ourselves and dive right into creating a business. Once Sam became a chef, he would be so occupied with providing dishes to his customers, he would not be able to focus on the vision. If he hired chefs to cook for him, he would get busy managing their conflicts, ensuring they make quality food and dealing with customer complaints.
What he needs to do is become an entrepreneur — someone who works on his business, not in it. Once he is free from the limitations of working or managing, he can think about the future; he can plan the path for his business, network with industry experts, create collaborations, bring in partners, broaden the scope and expand his horizons; he can dream and make his dream come true.
Walt Disney once said, “You can design, create and build the most wonderful place in the world but it takes people to make the dream a reality.” If your friends tell you you’re a great knitter or a wonderful interior decorator, it means you have the technical expertise to get a knitting job or become a freelance set designer. To create a business designing sweaters or interiors, however, you need much more.
Execute your Vision from Day One
To start a successful business you need a vision. You have to chart your journey before you start it. The reason that many great companies remain relevant and in business is because they started as great businesses. It is a famous story that Thomas J. Watson Sr., the man who turned IBM around, once said this about how IBM became the giant we know it is:
“IBM is what it is today for three special reasons. The first reason is that, at the very beginning, I had a very clear picture of what the company would look like when it was finally done. You might say I had a model in my mind of what it would look like when the dream – my vision – was in place.
The second reason was that once I had that picture, I then asked myself how a company which looked like that would have to act. I then created a picture of how IBM would act when it was finally done.
The third reason IBM has been so successful was that once I had a picture of how IBM would look when the dream was in place and how such a company would have to act, I then realized that, unless we began to act that way from the very beginning, we would never get there. In other words, I realized that for IBM to become a great company it would have to act like a great company long before it ever became one…
Every day at IBM was a day devoted to business development, not to doing business. We didn’t do business at IBM, we built one.”
Focus On ‘Building’ Strategies
Eventually your business should not be dependent on you being present every single day. Author Ricardo Semler talks about this concept in his book, The Seven Day Weekend. Essentially Semler suggests that entrepreneurs should develop strategies that help their businesses run independently from them. I also love how Michael Gerber illustrates this point. He says, “entrepreneurs are dreamers dragging people with them.”
Think about how you will achieve your dream. An organizational strategy will help your business, and processes, evolve over time. It will create a guideline that will allow your employees to understand what needs to be improved and what should be discarded.
Other areas where you should consider innovating include: how you will handle management, marketing, and a competitive strategy that will keep you at the forefront of your industry.
After reading this, some of you will go back to doing your job while others will be itching to get started on an idea of their own. So, let me ask you again. Do you have an entrepreneur within you?
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