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Almost always, small business owners don’t know how to create a business.

One of the primary things they don’t know is that people who begin businesses are actually 3 personalities in one. They include the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician. They all have necessary skills and they all want to be in charge, which immediately causes conflict and confusion. Neither can exist without the others, nor can anyone build a successful business without each of the personalities, and it can be complicated and painful to discover who should be in charge of what.

The 3 Personalities of the Small Business Owner

The entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician each can be wilfull, short-sighted, and power-mad and need a firm hand to build them into a team!

The entrepreneur is the person who has the vision and sees the opportunity. She focuses on the future rather than the present, and disregards the past totally. Her main problem immediately becomes how to get other people to do what she sees as possible. She is creative and energizing, and eventually leaves everyone behind.

The manager is the person who likes things orderly and predictable. He prefers the past to the future (or even the present). This is the person who establishes rules and policies and procedures, and he and the entrepreneur are automatically in conflict. He sets up an organization and wants it to stay the same, while the entrepreneur is always saying “What if?”.

The third person is the technician, the person who actually has the skills to do the work. She stays only in the present, doing what needs to be done, one step at a time. She is not interested in lofty visions or being “micromanaged.” She sees managers as control freaks and entrepreneurs as irresponsible dreamers. Technicians are pragmatic, resistant to change, and just want to be left alone to get the work done. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Surviving the Infancy and Adolescence of Your Business

In the beginning, most people who start small businesses are technicians, with managers coming in as a poor second, and entrepreneurs dead last. Gerber says the wrong person is in charge!

It is in the infancy of a business that the technician runs things, and infancy is when things start going wrong. At this stage, the technician IS the business, and he works and works and gets more and more exhausted until finally he realizes that the business must change or collapse. Since it is hard for the technician to change, most businesses end right here, with burnout and hopelessness.

The rest make it to the FIRST crisis of adolescence, which is marked by the technician deciding to get some help. And, because he is a technician, he decides to get technical help, which translates into getting someone in to do the work he doesn’t want or doesn’t know how to do. And our harried technician breathes a sigh of relief and leaves the employees alone to do these things.

Things go fine for awhile – the technician may even hire more people – but then customer complaints start rolling in. What has happened is that people have not been told EXACTLY how the technician wants things done, so they get it wrong. And as a remedy the technician steps in to do it right. So again the Adolescent business owner ends up running madly to do everything, to correct mistakes, to keep the business lurching from day to day, barely keeping its head above water.

Again the technician is burned out and overwhelmed, and we reach the SECOND crisis – in late adolescence. The business owner finds herself once more in a situation in which her business’s demands outstrip her ability to deal with them. Gerber calls this getting out of your Comfort Zone. The Comfort Zone consists of what the business owner knows, and now she must step into the unknown, or the business dies.

Many business owners decide to ditch the growing pressure and “get small again.” They cut back, downsize, and turn away from growth to recreate a business that they can handle by themselves. They’re back in control because they do everything themselves. But after awhile they end up in the same situation they were in back in Infancy – exhausted and overwhelmed.

An alternative reaction is to let the business grow and grow until it collapses under its own weight. Gerber sees this behavior as “a high-tech phenomenon.” We can see it demonstrated over and over in the “.com” collapses of the last few years. They were by and large started by great technicians who had an Entrepreneurial Seizure and never got out of the Fatal Assumption, with a disastrous result.

Now we get to the hard part! For a business to move into maturity the owner must begin to behave INTENTIONALLY to put in place the systems that ensure healthy growth.

Moving Into Business Maturity

In order to behave intentionally and put in place the systems that ensure healthy growth, the business owner must be willing to undergo the PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION needed for “accessing new skills, new understanding, new knowledge, new emotional depth, new wisdom.” He must develop what Gerber calls the Entrepreneurial Perspective. He can’t ignore, run from, or freak out at his fear and his lack of knowledge; he must plunge into it.

If he is able to manage his anxiety and learn the skills to develop his business into an independently functioning system, then the business becomes a Mature one. It is not static, but fluid. It has a clear vision, purpose, and goals. And the business owner has become a CONSCIOUS LEADER who employs managers and technicians (and maybe even an entrepreneur or two).

The results of the Entrepreneurial Perspective are a business that works and an owner who doesn’t have to. To put it another way, the business operates effectively whether the owner is there or not. The owner runs the business; the business does not run the owner. The owner knows her business inside and out, but it is NOT her sole purpose and being anymore. She has a life – away from the business.

As you might imagine, getting a business into maturity is not an easy process. I’d recommend reading E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber to all business owners.

This Entrepreneurship article was written by Mary Symmes on 2/11/2005

Mary Symmes is a professional coach and the founder of Alexandria, Virginia based Self-Investment Strategies. She can be reached via and 703-535-3221.
Her website is