Are You Spending Too Much Time Working In Your Business Instead of On Your Business?

Time is perhaps the scarcest resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs when they are launching new ventures and running their companies. This is because as a small business owner you are only one person, but you are often required to fill three completely divergent roles within the company and each one requires a vastly different mindset and specialized set of skills to execute.

The three different roles that a small business owner must occupy with just one body are that of the Manager, Technician, and Entrepreneur. Each one has specific duties that, when combined with the others, make a business successful. Unfortunately most businesses fail when these roles fall out of balance under the time pressure facing the small business owner, and as one or more of these roles continues to be neglected in favor of the others, over time the business becomes in jeopardy of collapse. The good news is that once you understand this dynamic it becomes much easier for you to diagnose the problems caused by this kind of imbalance and correct them before your company encounters any critical issues.

So what do these three roles do?

Entrepreneur: The Entrepreneur’s role is to guide the business strategically. They are responsible for having a vision about where the company needs to be heading to continue having success. They need to observe trends in the marketplace and then create strategies to capitalize on whatever new opportunities arrive because of the changes they are anticipating. Without this aspect of the business, it would be like a company trying to sell 8-track music players when everyone else has iPods. The company will eventually become so outdated that it would not be able to retain any of its existing customers, let alone attract new ones.

Manager: The Manager’s role is tactical and focused on finding a way to get from the present to the company’s desired position in the future. In other words, they are responsible for taking the Entrepreneur’s vision and turning it into action. It’s their job to coordinate the company’s various teams, manage the logistics and administration of the business, and create a plan that assigns resources and responsibilities to accomplish the goals set by the Entrepreneur. Without the Manager, the company falls into chaos because none of the employees know what they are supposed to be doing or how their work fits into the overall strategic mission. The Entrepreneur could recognize and anticipate an opportunity worth millions or even billions of dollars, but without the Manager it will never get past being a vision because there will never be a plan that maps out how resources will be used to make the vision a reality.

Technician: The Technician is the highly skilled subject matter expert. They are responsible for executing the Manager’s plan. A computer engineer needs to write the code that the Manager has assigned him, which the Entrepreneur knows is the key new feature that will make their software a success. A chef needs to cook the meals ordered by the customers, which the Entrepreneur knows will delight the patrons at the restaurant, using the ingredients that have been purchased and organized by the Manager. Without the Technician, nothing would get built. Even if the Entrepreneur had an excellent vision and the Manager created a sound plan for making it a reality, without a skilled workforce to actually execute the plan it will never get off the ground.

The problem most small business owners face is that, before they launched their company, they have only had to play one of the three roles. Most commonly, this is as a Technician. For example, let’s consider this story about a pastry chef who launches her own bakery as an illustration:

The pastry chef has been baking for years and knows how to make amazing desserts and sweets, and her customers rave about them to their friends and family. As her reputation grows, she establishes a large customer base for her bakery. While this sounds like success to most small business owners, the blessing of a thriving business can quickly become a curse if the company isn’t prepared. In this case, the problem is that baking is all she knows, and she becomes overwhelmed by the need to produce higher and higher volumes to keep up with demand, and then everything falls apart.

More customers mean more pastries need to be made, which means our chef starts spending longer and longer hours in the kitchen. The more hours she spends there, the less time she spends planning for the company’s future and coordinating its logistics, and this is where she loses her balance between the three roles. In the middle of the night, after weeks of seemingly non-stop baking, she goes to her pantry and realizes she has no more flour while she’s working on a particularly large order. She was sucked into her Technician role to the point that there was a major setback in the Manager’s responsibility to ensure there is sufficient logistical support for the Technician to work.

After an emergency trip to the grocery store, the pastry chef is able to complete the order, and then the next day she seeks to hire an assistant to help her regain her focus on the rest of the business. Having an employee gives our chef the spare time to make sure that the kitchen is sufficiently stocked and all of the company’s other affairs are in order, but just as she thinks she’s finally got the business under control, her customers start to vanish seemingly overnight.

While she was focusing on the logistics of managing her business and creating the pastries that made her such a success to begin with, another competitor across town came up with a new type of pastry that everyone is giving glowing reviews about. Again, the pastry chef did not sufficiently balance the three roles, this time neglecting the role of the Entrepreneur who needs to monitor the marketplace for threats and correct course if need be. After such significant setbacks, her business unfortunately won’t be able to recover from the loss of customers to her competitor.

Another way to describe this problem is that the pastry chef was spending too much time working in her business and not enough time on her business. When you work in your business, that’s the role of the technician, and you’re acting as if you were an employee instead of a business owner. You are doing the technical work you know how to do, and not focusing on the business and its future. When you work on your business, you are stepping outside the role of the employee and handling logistics, planning for the future, and strategizing how to make sure your success persists.

Now that you see the three different roles that a small business owner fills in their company, you should have a better perspective to be able to recognize when you are spending too much time in a given area and are at risk of falling out of balance. Let us know in the comments if you’ve experienced these symptoms before, and what you did to correct it!

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