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Small Business – The Entrepreneur, The Manager, and The Technician

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smallBusiness“With roughly 6.7 million jobs lost since the start of the recession, it’s tempting – and often a great idea – to launch your own business. That way, of course, you can take matters into your own hands. No more rolling your eyes at the boss; it’s your show.”

Of course, reading something like the above is going to encourage some segment of the 6.7 million to rush out and start their own business.  “No more rolling your eyes at the boss; its your show”.

The great thing about small business is that there is nothing to stop you.  Now that could be a good thing or a bad thing.  You are free to succeed or fail. “It’s your show.”  No one to blame but yourself.

There are a handful of reasons why people start their own business.

Maybe you have a great idea.  If you worked for a large mature Fortune 500 company and you wanted to create a new product or service – guess what – you are going to be in for a long, difficult, and treacherous road to actually seeing  your vision realized  in the corporate marketing collateral and your product or service being delivered or offered.

In this case, why not kiss those corporate folks good-bye and start your own business?  If you had your own business “It’s your show” and no one is there to stop you.

Maybe you are person who “does the work” (a “technician”) and you say to yourself – “I know how to do the work – I will work for myself – I can start my own business and be my own boss.”  It’s your show – there is no one to stop you.  Good for you!

The Entrepreneurial Myth (E-Myth ala Michael Gerber)

NewBizFailureRatesI really can’t recommend any of Gerber’s books as business books.  Gerber has written a bunch of books but at the end of the day Gerber wants to sell you small business consulting services.

I would describe Gerber’s audience as the “Individual Contributor Technician” who has lost his/her job, is unsatisfied with his/her job or boss, or just wants to work for himself/herself – for whatever reason.

Since Gerber has staked out his audience so clearly he does have some important insights into this group of potential “business owners”.  I put “business owners” in quotes since Gerber warns that the normal course of events for a “Technician” (the “doer”) who starts a small business ends up  owning “a job” rather than owning a business or failing all together.

What is the path to success?  This is where Gerber wants to help you.  No so much by telling you about how to start and run a successful business but the step before that.  The step before this is really about personal self-assessment.

The water in which you swim is invisible

To use an analogy, fish do not know that water in which they swim – the water is all around them – there is no place where there is “not water” – it is an unquestioned taken-for-granted reality.  It is invisible to them.  It is unquestioned.

So too, Technicians do not know the water (=”mind-set”) in which they swim.  For Gerber, to run a successful business, one needs the right balance of the Entrepreneurial “mind-set”, the management “mind-set”, and technical “mind-set”.  For Gerber, the imbalance of these three “mind-set”is what contributes to predictable business failure.

Gerber’s effort is to make visible what is invisible to the technician.  That is, the bias in their thinking, a sort of imbalance – that if not corrected – will lead to predictable small business failure.  Gerber wants to make visible to the Technician what is invisible to them and make them question what is unquestioned.  What is that?  The value of Entrepreneurial and Management thinking (perspective and value) which will put the Technician on the path to success ( at least in a mode of thinking) for a small business start-up

The E-Myth

E-Myth stands for the “entrepreneurial myth,” the end product of which is most often a business and life disaster.  The E-Myth says that technicians suffering from an entrepreneurial seizure believe that because they understand how to do the work of the business they intend to start, they are automatically gifted with an understanding about how to build and grow a business that does that work.  — Michael Gerber

Gerber to the Rescue

To be successful in small business the  Technicians (“the doers”) have to have a whole new set of skills in.  Gerber will describe these skills and mind-sets and how they differ from the way a technician thinks.

Gerber has some interesting quotes:

When a man journeys into a far country, he must be
prepared to forget many of the things he has learned, and
to acquire such customs that are inherent with existence
in the new land; he must abandon the old ideals and the
old gods, and oftentimes he must reverse the very codes
by which his conduct has hitherto been shaped.
—Jack London, “In a Far Country”

Gerber’s books are about the transformation of the Individual Contributor Technician to an Entrepreneur who can build a business (that does not need them!) and sell it.  Starting a business in order to sell it?

For an individual contributor technician to understand this requires one to “forget many things” and “oftentimes he must reverse the very codes by which his conduct has hitherto been shaped.”

Gerber’s books take folks on this journey to the “Far Country” of business success.

The Entrepreneur, Manager, and Technician

According to Gerber, everyone starting a business has elements of the Entrepreneur, Manager, and Technician within their personality.  To be successful, all of these three “mid-sets” need to function well together and strike a balance.

Why do businesses fail?  From Gerber…

The fact of the matter is that we all have an Entrepreneur, Manager, and Technician inside us.  And if they were equally balanced, we’d be describing an incredibly competent individual.

The Entrepreneur would be free to forge ahead into new areas of interest, The Manager would be solidifying the base of operations, and The Technician would be doing the technical work.

Each would derive satisfaction from the work he does best, serving the whole in the most productive way.

Unfortunately, our experience shows us that few people who go into business are blessed with such a balance.

Instead, the typical small business owner is only 10 percent Entrepreneur, 20 percent Manager, and 70 percent Technician.

The Entrepreneur wakes up with a vision.
The Manager screams ‘Oh, no”.
And while the two of them are battling it out, The Technician seizes the opportunity to go into business for himself.  Not to pursue the entrepreneurial dream, however, but to finally wrest control of his work from the other two.

To The Technician it’s a dream come true.  The Boss is dead.

But to the business it’s a disaster, because the wrong person it at the helm.
The Technician is in charge!

The value of Gerber’s book is not so much what he has to say about business – but how he nails the personality of a certain group of people that start their own business – Technicians – and why they generally fail unless they comprehend the other two persona’s and balance needed to develop a successful business.

A book more about psychology than about business

I am going to end this post with Gerber’s description of the three persona’s – The Entrepreneur, the Manger, and the Technician.  In the resources section are a few articles on why small businesses succeed or fail.

If you are looking for a profession book on business development and Entrepreneurship – skip these books by Gerber.  If you are looking for insight (as a quasi study of  personality)  into Technicians who want to start businesses and why they generally fail unless they understand the larger picture of how business works – these books are winners.

Conclusion – Freedom might not be so good – to your risk capital & 401K

So, if you are one of those 6.7 million folks that are out of a job contemplating starting your own business then I suggest “a personal self-assessment” to see  if you have the right mix of Entrepreneur, Manager, and Technician to avoid the avoidable mistakes made by this imbalance of personas.  Take a read on Gerber’s books and discover the water in which you swim.

From Gerber…

The Entrepreneur

The entrepreneurial personality turns the most trivial condition into an exceptional opportunity The Entrepreneur is the visionary in us.  The dreamer.  The energy behind every human activity.  The imagination that sparks the fire of the future The catalyst for change.

The Entrepreneur lives in the future, never in the past, rarely in the present.  He’s happiest when left free to construct images of what if.  To The Entrepreneur, most people are problems that get in the way of the dream.

The Manager

The managerial personality is pragmatic. Without the Manager there would be no planning, no order, no predictability.
If The Entrepreneur lives in the future, The Manager lives in the past.
Where The Entrepreneur craves control, The Manager craves order.
Where The Entrepreneur thrives on change, The Manager compulsively clings to the status quo.
Where The Entrepreneur invariably sees the opportunity in events  The Manager invariably sees the problems.
The Manager builds a house and then lives in it, forever.

The Entrepreneur builds a house then the instant it’s done begins planning the next one.
The Manager creates neat, orderly rows of things. The Entrepreneur creates the things The Manager puts in rows.
The Manager is the one who runs after The Entrepreneur to clean up the mess.  Without The Entrepreneur there would be no mess to clean up.

Without The Manager, there could be no business, no society. Without The Entrepreneur, there would be no innovation.
It is the tension between The Entrepreneur’s vision and The Manager’s pragmatism that creates the synthesis from which all great works are born.

The Technician

The technician is the doer.
“If you want it done right do it yourself” is The Technicians credo.
The Technician loves to tinker. Things are to be taken apart and put back together again.  Things aren’t supposed to be dreamed about, they’re supposed to be done.
If The Entrepreneur lives in the future and The Manager lives in the past, The Technician lives in the present.  He loves the feel of things and the fact that things can get done.
As long as The Technician is working, he is happy, but only on one thing at a time.  He knows that two things can’t get done simultaneously, only a fool would try.  So he works steadily and is happiest when he is in control of the work flow.  To the Technician, thinking is unproductive unless it’s thinking about the work that needs to be done.
As a result, he is suspicious of lofty ideas or abstractions
Thinking isn’t work, It gets in the way of work.
The Technician isn’t interested in ideas, he’s interested in “how to do it”

To The Technician, an idea needs to be reduced to methodology if they is to be of any value.  And with good reason.
The Technician knows that if it weren’t for him, the world would be in more trouble than is already is as Nothing would get done, but lots of people would be thinking about it.

Put another way, while The Entrepreneur dreams, The Manager frets, and The Technician ruminates
The Technician is a resolute individualist, standing his ground, producing today’s bread to eat at tonight’s dinner.  He is the backbone of every cultural tradition, but most importantly, of ours. If The Technician didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done.
Everyone gets in The Technician’s way

The Entrepreneur is always throwing a monkey wrench into his day with the creation of yet another “great new idea”
On the other hand, The Entrepreneur is always creating new and interesting work for The Technician to do, thus establishing a potentially symbolic relationship.
Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way
Since most entrepreneurial ideas don’t work in the real world.

The Technician’s usual experience is one of frustration and annoyance at being interrupted in the course of doing What needs to be  done to try something that probably does not need to be done at all.
The Manager is also a problem to The Technician because he is determined to impose order on The Technician’s work, to reduce his as part of the system.

But being a rugged individualist, The Technician can’t stand being treated that way
To The Technician, “the system” is dehumanizing, cold, antiseptic, and impersonal.  It violates his individuality.
Work is what a person does.  And to the degree that i’s not work becomes something foreign.
To The Manager, however, work is a system of results in which The Technician is but a component part.

To The Manager, then, The Technician becomes a problem to be managed.  To The Technician, The Manager becomes a meddler to be avoided.
To both of them, The Entrepreneur is the one who got them into trouble in the first place.

The internal conflict of the Entrepreneur, Manager, and Technician.

The fact of the matter is that we all have an Entrepreneur, Manager, and Technician inside us.  And if they were equally balanced, we’d be describing an incredibly competent individual.

The Entrepreneur would be free to forge ahead into new areas of interest, The Manager would be solidifying the base of operations, and The Technician would be doing the technical work.

Each would derive satisfaction from the work he does best, serving the whole in the most productive way.

Unfortunately, our experience shows us that few people who go into business are blessed with such a balance.  Instead, the typical small business owner is only 10 percent Entrepreneur, 20 percent Manager, and 70 percent Technician.

The Entrepreneur wakes up with a vision.
The Manager screams ‘Oh, no”.
And while the two of them are battling it out, The Technician seizes the opportunity to go into business for himself.
Not to pursue the entrepreneurial dream, however, but to finally wrest control of his work from the other two.

To The Technician it’s a dream come true.  The Boss is dead.

But to the business it’s a disaster, because the wrong person it at the helm.
The Technician is in charge!

Resources

The Accidental Entrepreneur
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/11/BUF81974CT.DTL

Key Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail by Titus – IIB Business Support Americas
Planning Against Business Failure – U of Tennessee
Small Business Success – A review of the Literature – Athens State College

From FORTUNE Magazine 1993 –
THE DAY THE MONEY RAN OUT Consumed with his business, Michael Gerber awoke one morning to a financial crisis — and five years of nightmarish struggle. By CHARLES BURCK September 6, 1993 (FORTUNE Magazine) – Read it

Small Business Administration – Office of Advocacy Reports
http://www.sba.gov/advo/research/chron.html

Startup Business Characteristics and Dynamics

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Written by frrl

September 6, 2009 at 8:18 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] Michael Gerber stated in The E-Myth Revisited that most entrepreneurs are technicians having a spasm of entrepreneurship. […]

  2. […] here: Small Business – The Entrepreneur, The Manager, and The Technician By admin | category: business consulting, small business consulting | tags: business […]


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