“Our business can provide us with a mirror to see ourselves as we are, to see what we truly know and what we don’t know, to see ourselves honestly, directly, and immediately.” – Michael Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited
What Is It That You’re Good At?
The answer to this question is a very important part of your entrepreneur success, and happiness, in starting and running your own business.
Because too many people start businesses out of necessity (because they lost their job or because their current employment situation is so intolerable that starting a business, even as a side hustle, is a necessity).
As a result, you may start a business around what you know as opposed to what you’re really good at. And this may be a recipe for failure . . .
Creating a business around what you know is a logical decision: you have a certain subject matter expertise based on what you were or are currently doing in your profession. Because it’s what you’ve been doing you know the marketplace well and the type of people who are good prospects for that particular product or service. It’s a natural extension of what you’ve been doing up until now.
So, you dive right in. You pick up some quick work because of your expertise and marketplace knowledge. Soon you find yourself busy with more work. Not too long after that you may find yourself neck deep in work. In fact, you may be as busy as you’ve ever been when you actually had a “job” working for someone else.
And you continue down this path, working heads-down because it’s your business – you have pride in ownership and you’re not going to let it fail.
At some point, however, you come to the inevitable conclusion that what you are doing in your own business isn’t much different than what you were doing when you had that “job” – the only difference being that instead of having a boss, your business is now the boss!
It controls you, rather than you controlling it. You have customers who are depending upon you and each day you jump back into the mix, putting out one fire after another, moving the ball forward a little bit at a time, your head down, focused on the task at hand.
But you aren’t happy. You aren’t able to step back and look at your business from the outside in. You aren’t able to work on your business because you are too busy working in your business. And you aren’t happy because what you are doing each and every day for long hours at a time isn’t really what you are good at. Rather, it is what you know. You are a technician, not a business owner.
For many small business owners the technician in them usually dominates—to the detriment of the overall business.
This is the central premise of the excellent book on starting and maintaining a small business, The E-Myth Revisited . The idea is that entrepreneurs start businesses, but the entrepreneur only exists for a brief moment in time, and then is gone.
This is because most businesses are not started by entrepreneurs. They are started by people who were previously working for someone else doing technical work, be that as a carpenter, mechanic, bookkeeper, computer programmer, salesperson, whatever.
You were doing this work and you were probably very good at it. And as I discussed above, when you decided to go into business for yourself, for whatever the reason, you make the assumption that if you understand the technical work of a business you’ll understand the “business” that does that technical work.
The technical work of a business and a business that does the technical work are two different things.
Most people don’t see this. They believe that the work itself is the business. And as a result, they eventually become trapped by the work itself.
Gerber goes on to articulate the three roles of every business – the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician.
Defining the business is entrepreneurial work, doing the hands-on work is technical work, and the managerial work is the bridge between the two. Creating and maintaining a successful business requires the contributions of all three roles.
You have to keep these roles separate, and decide which one you are actually best at. If it’s truly the technician role then you need to figure out how to account for the entrepreneur and manager role. If it’s the manager role, then you need to figure out how to account for the entrepreneur and technician role, etc. The E-Myth Revisited explains how to go about doing this, but for the purposes of this article you need to understand which of these three roles you are good at.
“What must our business be in the mind of our customers in order for them to choose us over everyone else?” – Michael Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited
In order to effectively answer this question, you have to be coming at your business from a place of passion.
And in order for this to work, you must be pursuing what you are good at and not just what you know.
How do you determine what you’re good at? Here are some guideposts to help you:
How Do You Add Value?
Think about the value you bring your prospects and customers. What product or service, knowledge or skill do you offer that truly helps you’re your prospect or customer. That allows him or her to do their job better, makes their job easier, and where they can genuinely say, “she really helped me!”
What Do You Enjoy Doing?
What is it that you like to do, that brings you happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, joy, contentment? This is very important, because if you’re happy, it will reflect in your work, you will deliver a better product and service, and your customers will be happy.
What Are Your Options?
Objectively evaluate product, service, and job opportunities that combine the value you offer with what you enjoy doing. This is your sweet spot. This is what you should be offering as a product or service, or what you should be looking to start and build a company around.
Where Do You Focus?
Once you understand your options, you have to really focus on the one product or service that best represents the unique value and enjoyment you bring to it. You need to build your business from this one thing, at least at the outset. Laying the foundation and building your reputation around the one thing that you do really well, for which you add a great amount of value, and for which makes you happy. After you build out this core competency, then you can start to branch out into other associated or related product or services to augment your core competency.
As we talked about above, understand if you are an Entrepreneur, a Manager, or a Technician. You can’t be all three. You may have to do all three yourself at the outset because you might be they only employee. But you have to recognize and do all three, prioritizing what you are good at and making sure that as you grow, you can fill the other roles with other people.
Make sure you recognize what the challenges are and where they lie. Understanding where the challenges are will help you overcome them when they are encountered. For example, knowing that you will need to carve out time to perform managerial tasks, such as time keeping, invoicing, etc., that you would otherwise put off because as a Technician you are too busy doing work for the customer, is very important to your success. Don’t ignore these things.
And finally, always keep your eye on the opportunity. The big picture. The reason why you started your business in the first place. Be sure to step outside of your business on a regular business to look at it from the outside and identify those things that you need to work on in order to fulfill the larger opportunity.