What makes an owner?

If you’re reading this, chances are you want to be a business owner, or you already are one.  And, if you’re the sort of person who wants to run their own business, it’s probably not because you plan on working a daily grind into your 60s.  You probably have a dream for your business, and for your role in it.

Maybe you see yourself hanging out nightly in the VIP section of a nightclub you opened.  Or managing your wealth long-distance, answering emails on a satellite phone while you recline on a tropical beach.  Perhaps your vision of success is your business doing so well that you can yacht away to somewhere without any cell phone reception at all.

Here is the problem we see time and time again…A new business owner spends so much time daydreaming about what their position should be, they don’t put in the work to make their dream into a reality.  The result is owners frustrated because, “I didn’t start my own business to work myself this hard!”, and failing businesses.

So, how does an owner achieve success?  A few things to keep in mind…

You should be your most dedicated employee.  No one has more stake in your business than you.  So why expect anyone else to work harder for your business than you do?  Employees take their cue from the boss.  An owner who puts in their hours and maintains high levels of work ethic and professionalism shows the employees that the business is being taken seriously, and inspires them to follow in that same example.  Unfortunately, many owners adopt a “Do as I say, not as I do” style which lowers employee morale and motivates them to do their job…when the boss is looking.

To assess your success in this area, take a step back, and think of yourself not as “the owner”, but as one of your own employees.  Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Would you hire you?
  2. Would you write you a letter of recommendation?
  3. Would you fire you?

If what you’re giving your business would be unacceptable from anyone else you hired, it may be time to reimagine your role as the owner.  And…

Play to your strengths.  You know a business type that makes a killing?  Dental offices.  So why don’t I open a dental office?  Because I am not a dentist.  It makes no sense for me to try to start a business about which I have no knowledge, just because I’m hoping it will somehow prevail and make me a lot of money.

Unless you’re simply a brilliant, Richard Branson-esque entrepreneur (in which case, Thanks for reading!  Need a bookkeeper?), your business should involve a field in which you are an expert, or at least be something you have a strong passion for.  Also, you should be leveraging that expertise and that passion in the most appropriate area of your business.  (You are your own best employee, remember?)

For example, say you have a business detailing cars.  You are a dynamite car detail-er, and, between word-of-mouth recommendations and repeat customers, business takes off.  So, you hire four more people to detail cars, and you step back to do “owner things”, like marketing and money management.

Only problem is, you have crippling social anxiety and couldn’t add 2+2 without a calculator.  So, you end up not doing the marketing because you hate it (and, truthfully, aren’t that great at it) and you get your finances in a huge tangle.  Meanwhile, customer satisfaction slips because those car detail-ers you hired can’t match the level of service you’re provided in the past.  And in your rush to get to what you envision is the role of the “owner”, you’ve hired too many additional people, anyway.

So, how should you play it?  First, stop thinking about what an owner is “supposed” to do and just do what you’re supposed to do.  Keep detailing cars yourself (take on one or two people you can train) and hire somebody else to do the marketing and the books.  If detailing cars is what you know and what you’re good at, why take your best employee (again, you) off of that to do something else?

And, sure, maybe you don’t want to detail cars forever.  Maybe you really want to reach that place where you’re just relaxing on the yacht.  That’s why you have to…

Have patience.  So many businesses fail when they attempt to expand too quickly.  (We recently compared this to buying hotels too soon in Monopoly.)  Likewise, we see a lot of businesses run into trouble when the owner decides they’d rather work like Don Draper than Peggy Olson.  (If you’re not familiar with “Mad Men”, then just substitute anyone who doesn’t work very hard versus anyone who does.)

If there’s something your business needs which isn’t being done, and you refuse to do it yourself because, “I don’t do that; I’m the owner,” you’re not likely to find long-term success.  You can’t just rely on your employees’ hard work; you have to contribute your own.

Recommended Posts