When I started exit consulting business owners a few years ago I kept wondering why my advice to quite a few owners to start working on their business rather than working in their business seemed to get immediate agreement, but then they dragged their feet or never implemented strategies.
I went through the process of looking at the owner as too busy to handle anything but working in the business. First I observed those business owners who have driven themselves into a corner and now they act like wild injured trapped animals desperately looking for a way out, but these owners would eventually find their way to something different with help or not. So this was not the group I was interested in using to solve the question. If this describes you, please stop reading and just call us.
Next I observed those owners that were working in their business and exhausted working out the daily grind. The mystery from this group was why, when presented with another way to change their structure and role within the company, some still would continue doing what they did everyday even if they might verbally agree it was the better way to go. Then it struck me one day, remembering the book, E-Myth Revisited, that I had read numerous times years ago, that one root of the problem was possibly very simple..
The root of the struggle, for the owner, to travel from working in the business to working on the business was not that they didn't know the right path to follow, although this is an obstacle, because there are a number of paths, tools, professional advice to help the owner achieve this goal. But rather it was much deeper in the reason owners go into business in the first place.
I've often been told that I'm always trying to make every company a giant company and that probably holds many truths. But it was probably this earlier naive assumption of mine that prevented me from really listening to owners telling me what they really wanted. I believe now they were just trying to tell me "Get rid of my pain", but all I heard was "So I want to grow big." Granted I believe strongly in the tools of growing big gets rid of a lot of pains, but I also discovered that it created a different kind of pain that the owners were trying to convey to me, but I wasn't listening to at the time.
The simple curious question, "Why did you start this company?" I posed one day to an owner and many more owners led to what I believe solved the puzzle to one root issue. In the book, E-Myth, it talks about the technician, manager, and visionary levels for a company ( I strongly recommend you read it). So my theory is this, if you went into a business because you loved doing the work (ie. financial advisor, plumber) but just didn't like having a boss then you would qualify for a technician ownership status. And if you qualified as a technician owner then anything that would force you into a status of manager or visionary owner would be met consciously or subconsciously with resistance. So even if a technician owner pursues the path to working on his company he/she will start to self sabotage his company to get back to working in his company.
So I took this theory on the road and discovered by listening, truly listening, that it seems to hold true not only at the technician level but at the manager and visionary levels as well.
So if you get this far in my article ask yourself two questions "Why did I start this company?" and "What level do I like to play in my company?" I believe, if you seriously honestly answer that question, you will understand a lot of emotional conflict you have felt up to this point. A simple example of this conflict is maybe that your company needs a visionary to grow bigger, but your love is really just being a technician. The good news is that you can do just that, but it will take a rewiring of how you think about company structure.
My apologies, here I go again trying to make you a bigger company without listening to you. So if you would like for me to listen to a business issue causing you pain please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Hamel is the Managing Member of Austec Business Transitions, LLC. helping businesses optimize value relative to exiting their company.