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Entrepreneurs: You’re unemployable in your own company, must define your role

(ENTREPRENEURS) Once you’ve built a successful business, it’s time to reexamine your role and determine where you fit in best.

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In my experience, most entrepreneurs are “accidental entrepreneurs.” They happened to be good at something, or they had a unique one-time opportunity to provide a product or service to the market. Then years later, they wake up one day and realize that they’re running a big business.

As an entrepreneur, one of the unintended consequences of building a business is that you become essentially unemployable within your own organization. After living the life of freedom, flexibility and responsibility of being a business owner, it’s difficult to go back to a “nine-to-five” job. This is why many entrepreneurs don’t enjoy staying with their businesses after they’ve sold to other organizations. Within months, they are frustrated that they’re no longer in control and the new owners are (in their opinion) making poor choices.

I see many situations where entrepreneurs are bad employees in their own organization. In fact, they may be the worst team members in the organization by having inconsistent schedules or poor communication skills and/or by inserting themselves into areas that aren’t useful. They can also have too much freedom and flexibility. And while most entrepreneurs insist on clearly defined roles, expectations and goals for all of their employees, they don’t always take the time to define their own roles, expectations and goals.

So why do entrepreneurs become bad employees?

I believe that it’s because they don’t have someone holding them accountable. Think about it: Who do they report to? They’re the owners. Part of the definition of “owner” is being accountable for everything but not accountable to anyone. Having a board of directors, a peer group or a business coach can provide some accountability for them, but another solution is to clarify their roles in the company and then abide by those definitions.

If you find yourself “unemployable” in your business, it’s time to define your role. It starts with outlining your main focus. Do you concentrate more on day-to-day execution or strategic, long-term decisions? Do you consider yourself an owner-operator or an investor?

Most entrepreneurs start as an owner-operator and put in countless hours of sweat equity doing whatever needs to be done to build the business. But over time they reinvest earnings in the business and hire a management team so they can step back and take on a more strategic role. Sometimes it’s not clear when the entrepreneur makes that transition, which can lead to challenges for the entire team.

Focus: Strategic Overview

If your main role is in dealing with long-term, strategic decisions, then it’s important for you to communicate that to the team. Clearly delegate tactical roles and responsibilities to the leadership team.

I’ve seen many instances where owners do more harm than good by haphazardly injecting themselves into tactical decisions that should be handled by the leadership team. Instead of jumping in when they see something they disagree with, I encourage owners to actively “coach” their leadership team to be better leaders. The approach of micromanaging every decision of others will frustrate everyone and lead to an underperforming organization.

I have one client that decided his role was to build strategic relationships and work on a new service offering. He was confident that his leadership team could handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Over time he discovered that being in the office every day was actually a distraction for him and his team. So, he moved his office out of the building.

To maintain his ownership responsibilities to the company, he scheduled one afternoon a week to physically be in the office. Team members knew they could schedule time with him during that weekly window when he temporarily set up office space in a conference room. Not having a permanent office in the building also sent a message to the team that he was not responsible for day-to-day decisions. Sometimes not having an office in the building is better than the team seeing the owner’s office empty on a regular basis.

Focus: Day-to-Day Execution

If you decide that your role is in the day-to-day execution of the business, then clearly define your role in the same way you would define any other team member role. Are you in charge of marketing? Sales? Finance? Operations? Technology? R&D? Or, some combination of multiple roles? Take the time to outline your responsibilities and communicate them to the team.

Just as you define your role, also define what you are NOT going to do and who is responsible for those areas. After all, sectioning off some tactical work does not abdicate you from long-term decision-making. You must set aside time to make the long-term, strategic decisions of the company.

Being an entrepreneur sounds glamorous to those that haven’t done it, but ultimately, the owner is accountable for everything that happens in their organization. It can be quite sobering. And while some entrepreneurs have a delusional belief that they can do everything in a company, it’s not a path to long-term success.

All entrepreneurs have to decide what their role should be in their organization – even if it means that they’re contributing to their “unemployable” status.

Certified Petra Coach Rob Simons draws upon his 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, brand expert and business coach. Rob founded PixelWorks Corporation in 1993 to serve the interactive advertising industry and in 1996 he founded Toolbox Studios, Inc., one of the most respected branded content marketing firms in Texas. Rob sold Toolbox Studios in 2015 to focus exclusively on business coaching, which includes certification as a Gazelles International Four Decisions™ coach. An active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Rob is currently a “Master” EO Strategy Summit Facilitator and an EO Accelerator Instructor. In 2007, the San Antonio Business Journal named him one of San Antonio’s “40 Under 40.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Emma West

    January 3, 2018 at 4:19 am

    Im not sure I would classify my self as an entrepreneur per say but having run my own business I can certainly relate to the points you have raised. Starting and running a business from the ground up requires one to wear many hats and be work all sorts of hours. These traits are all necessary but unfortunately don’t always translate well in a larger organization.

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Business Entrepreneur

Girl Scouts setting strong example by protesting bad business practices

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Girl Scouts cookie sales are designed to teach children business skills, so it’s no surprise several troops are refusing to sell this year based on bad business practices.

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Girl Scouts table selling cookies with smiling young girl behind the table.

The Girl Scout Cookie season is officially starting! Even though you probably won’t see scouts out selling boxes in person this year, cookie sales promise to be as strong as ever as they shift online.

But at least one group of Girl Scouts have opted out of selling cookies completely this year. Troop 12026 in Jersey City, New Jersey, which is composed of 21 girls between 10 and 15 years old, is protesting against palm oil in the company’s cookie recipes.

It wasn’t a small sacrifice for them either. The cookie fundraiser earns the troop around $1,000 every year that goes towards funding their events and materials.

Troop leader Gina Verdibello, who has 2 daughters in the troop, says she was originally made aware of the issue through an online petition launched by 14-year old Tennessee Girl Scout, Olivia Chaffin.

“As much as they love the cookies, and they love selling, they didn’t feel it was right to do until the Girl Scouts fixed the issue,” Verdibello said of her group.

Being the world’s most popular vegetable oil, palm oil is a staple ingredient in countless food products. It’s common in fuel, animal feed, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and its derivatives can go by any of over 200 different names.

Here’s the rub: In December 2020, the AP reported that many of the world’s biggest food manufacturers make use of palm oil produced with child labor. Little Brownie Bakers, one of two bakers that produce the country’s Girl Scout Cookies, is among them.

Palm oil is pressed from the fruit of the oil palm, which is predominantly grown in Indonesia and Malaysia. The children of palm oil farmers are often pulled out of school to work alongside their parents, risking their safety to collect every palm kernel as fast as possible. Injury, sexual assault, and chemical exposure are everyday occurrences.

COVID-19 has made conditions for these underage workers even worse: the virus has decimated the available supply of plantation labor, and demand for palm oil (ie, the amount the world is eating) hasn’t decreased a bit.

Ethical and sustainable palm oil producers are out there, in theory. The Girl Scouts are a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which has been pushing for change and accountability in the industry since 2004. However, the AP report claims RSPO auditors are only given limited access to inspect workers’ conditions. Critics say the RSPO only serves to greenwash the labor and environmental issues around palm plantations, rather than taking the steps to stop bad farming practices.

There are complete alternatives to palm oil, including oil harvested from algae, commercially available. But of course, these are more expensive and harder to source.

The Girl Scouts claim to set an example for entrepreneuring young women. But at this rate, it seems the girls themselves are setting the example for the company to follow.

To quote one of the Scouts from Troop 12026: “For a company that shows itself as trying to bring girls up, you sure aren’t bringing up the girls in the countries that you are using child labor from.”

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Business Entrepreneur

How can a small business beat a large competitor moving in next door?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) How do you stand out when a big competitor moves to your neighborhood? Reddit has a few suggestions – some obvious, some not so much.

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Small businesses, especially restaurants have been hit hard by lockdowns. Many closed for good this year, and those that are still hanging on are in a precarious position as their local economies shift.

Last week, a user on r/smallbusiness asked a timeless question that is especially relevant right now. Reddit user longbottomjr writes: “We have a strong competitor moving in next door in a few months. Our restaurant is one that pays the bills but […] I feel that if this new competitor takes up enough market share we will lose our restaurant. Can anyone chime in with resources/ideas I can use to help put together our plan of action?”

Comments quickly pointed out what common sense would dictate.

First, ensure the basics are covered. Being clean, quick, friendly, and high quality will take you far, no matter what competition you’re up against. And as u/horsemullet said, “Customer service also happens before someone walks through the door!” So make sure that your online hours, contact info, menus and social media accounts are up to date and accurate.

Another point emerged that is less intuitive: Competing businesses will naturally gravitate towards similar locations. This is a well-established phenomenon known within game theory as Nash’s Equilibrium. In the restaurant industry, this is actually a good thing. It brings entirely new customers to the area and ultimately benefits all the other nearby businesses, too.

Take advantage of the attention by offering something other spots don’t, like loyalty rewards, specials, unique offerings, or meal deals.

Speaking of the area, a great way to stand out from larger competitors is to build relationships with the community you serve, as u/sugarface2134 emphasized. “In my city there are two Italian restaurants in the same location – just across the parking lot from each other. We always pick the smaller one because the owner truly makes you feel like a member of the family.”

That’s an advantage of being a small, local business that all the money in the world couldn’t buy. Get to know your customers personally and you will not only create loyal regulars, but friends as well.

One of the top rated responses, from u/seefooddiet2200, made an often overlooked but critically important point.

“Talk to your staff and see if they have any ideas. These are the people that are working every single day and may know one or two ‘annoying’ things that if they were switched would make things easier. Or maybe they see that there’s specific things people ask for that you don’t serve. Every single [one] of your employees is a gold mine of insight, you just need to be open to listening to them.”

That is applicable to any business owner who wants to improve their practices.

Ask employees what they think, especially the ones who have stuck around a long time. Not only do they know the ins-and-outs of their jobs, but this builds rapport and trust with your staff. A good boss realizes that employees are more than their job descriptions. They have valuable thoughts about what’s working and not working, and direct access to customer’s opinions.

Good luck, u/longbottomjr! We’ll be rooting for you.

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Business Entrepreneur

This app lets you swipe right on the co-founder of your dreams

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) It’s said that business can be a lot like dating – and Tertle is taking advantage of that to find you a vetted, high-quality co-founder with a few swipes.

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Two men standing in meeting room with others, shaking hands as they agree to be co-founder together.

Much like there is a dating app for every romantic match possible, there is now a way to match with your ideal co-founder. And the name will help you ease out of your shell when connecting with your new partner.

Tertle is a new online app that helps you find the co-founder that best suits your needs. According to developers, “Tertle sends you frequent, vetted, high-quality co-founder matches via email or WhatsApp based on things that matter to you – giving you precious time back and putting an end to endless profile crawling.”

So how does it work? Like any other matching app, you first start by creating your profile. Tell Tertle a little bit more about you and what you’re looking for in a co-founder.

Next comes the vetted matching. Tertle will match you up based on things you both care about – like your skill sets, location, values, and interests. Finally, you connect and chat. Receive weekly 1:1 video chat calendar invitations at a time that suits you.

When answering why Tertle was founded, developers wrote, “We, like you, are startup fanatics. Finding the right co-founders is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in pursuit of a successful venture. We think there’s nothing currently out there that really hits the mark in helping like-minded co-founders easily connect—and so, Tertle hatched.”

As a reviewer pointed out on Product Hunt, the safest (and most heard about) route when selecting a co-founder is to choose someone you went to college with or have a long-standing relationship with. However, this may not always be an option and so it’s nice to have a little help from profile-matching algorithms.

Tertle developer Ryan Connaughton appreciated the Product Hunt feedback and expressed the following, “In terms of the algorithm, I’ve been matching people manually to test the waters while also working on a simple algorithm as MVP (what skillsets they’re looking for and location IF thats also important to them).

Following an MVP, my thinking is I can vet harder with more in-depth data collection (personality types, values, problems spaces of interest, etc). Of-course this will require a much deeper user-research/spike piece first before I can get to the right solution.

In addition, there can only be so much ‘filtering/vetting’ you can do before you have to get some hard validation that this is the right person – that being, actually working together. So assuming that I can get the prerequisites above right and there’s interest, I think there’s then potential of guided mini-hackathon style projects or some kind of ‘trials’.

Worst case scenario: You meet someone new, learn some stuff, give each other feedback for you to grow and have fun building something. Best case scenario: All of the above, plus the problem/solution holds water and/or you form a continued lasting relationship.”

The site boasts being free to beta users forever; so, if you’re on the hunt for a co-founder, it may be worth it to join the waitlist and see what’s out there.

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