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Edition 66 – Technician – Manager – Entrepreneur – Part 1

The way I see it, the owners and managers of family businesses evolve in three ways. 

First there is the Technician. Each of us starts our professional or work life this way. Whether we’re an engineer, an electrician or a lawyer, we learn our trade at the hands of others and through some external form of training. As time progresses, our skills are developed and we move from a state of unconscious incompetence in our chosen field to unconscious competence. We know our craft and can do it with our eyes shut.

The second level is the Manager. Once we have shown our capabilities in our chosen field, our superiors identify our potential and, on the basis that we are good at what we do, promote us to a level of authority. We manage people, projects, clients and resources at this level. We are no longer doing as much of “the do” and, instead, are using our skills to teach technicians to move from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence.

The third level is the Entrepreneur. Those of us that have an urge to make our own way in life and prove to ourselves that we can do it better than our bosses ever did and want to create a better life for our families, start our own businesses or buy into existing ones. At the Entrepreneur level, you are operating strategically. You set the direction of the business, develop a plan for implementing it then go about managing the resources of your business so that it falls into place.

The reason we are talking about Technician – Manager – Entrepreneur is that I have observed a pattern over the years where Entrepreneurs are too often regressing to the Technician’s role. If work turns busy all of a sudden, too many business owners are throwing themselves back into “the do”. Whilst business owners would suggest either:

  1. It is good to keep your hand in – and show your staff that you still know how to do it; or,
  2. That’s just what has to be done at the time to make sure the client is kept happy, the job delivered on time and the cashflow rolling in.

I completely disagree with them.

You see, if you are an Entrepreneur, you should be engaging in Entrepreneurial activity. Developing strategy. Identifying business opportunities. Talking with your key customers about their upcoming projects.

Dragging yourself back from Entrepreneur to Technician creates a number of adverse side effects for your family business.

  1. You are demonstrating to your client that you are so busy being busy that your only alternative is to “muck in” and do the work yourself. Except your client sees a risk in that without you, your business apparently can’t get the job done.
  2. You are not communicating often enough at a higher level – you only learn by engaging in peer to peer or peer to superior conversations – not peer to subordinate.
  3. You are exposing the business to the rollercoaster ride that often hits family business – famine on the work front means you hunt down so much new work that you are overcome by a feast of it – which takes you away from marketing and leads you back into famine.
  4. You are showing your bankers the business relies too much on you and your physical labour – and therefore they are more at risk if something were to happen to you.
  5. You are conversing with the team in the field as one of the boys and probably even wearing the high vis gear. This means your team sees you as an equal, not as their leader.

If this sounds like you, stick around for next week’s edition of Growth. I have some very sage advice for you.

This Week’s Tip

In your family business, are you a technician, a manager or an entrepreneur?