Small-business owners are naturally self-reliant. We’re all in business for ourselves because we have that classic, American mentality that says we should get our hands dirty and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.
Damn the torpedoes!
According to the SBA there are 27.9 million small businesses registered in America and 22.5 million of those are “non-employer” companies. That’s a lot of one-person firms.
Not only that, the vast majority of those small businesses are started by technicians… Skilled specialists such as lawyers, auto mechanics, programmers, artists, plumbers or writers.
They’re experts in a trade, not in business. They might not have one speck of experience in small business marketing, management, finance, or any other business discipline.
They just know how to do the work.
These tenacious, small-business do-it-yourselfers often make the fatal assumption that because they’re good at the technical work of a business, they understand the business itself.
That’s just not true. A plumber knows how to run pipe, fix leaks and do the work. He doesn’t necessarily know how to run a plumbing business.
That’s the crux of The E Myth, by Michael Gerber. If you have a business, or are planning to go into business of any kind, you need to read that book.
There’s a big difference between a DIY business owner and an entrepreneur. The DIY business owner creates a job for herself. The business is entirely dependent on her own skills.
The entrepreneur creates an enterprise that’ll provide jobs for many. It’s built with an eye toward growth and a future acquisition by a corporation. It’s bigger than any one person.
As Gerber puts it, the DIY owner goes to work IN the business, the entrepreneur works ON the business.
The DIY owner does all the small business marketing herself. The entrepreneur hires smart people who implement a systematic approach to marketing.
The DIY owner is constantly scrambling to make widgets and get them out the door. The entrepreneur creates business systems that automatically deliver the widgets.
Architects are almost always DIY owners. Just because you can design great buildings doesn’t mean you can run a great architecture firm.
Talent, by itself, isn’t a guarantee of success.
Yet here’s what often happens: Two or three key people in an established architectural firm leave with a few clients, just knowing they can do it better on their own. But then they start a company that’s cut from the exact same cloth as the last place they worked. They use the same accounting software, the same small business marketing strategy, the same fee structure, and even the same value proposition.
The only thing that’s changed is the location and the letterhead.
The two founders dive right into the work of architects, and they neglect the work of an entrepreneur or manager.
So why are they surprised when they run into the same challenges and problems that their former employers experienced?
Those two DIY owner architects have to do a lot more than just architecture. They also have to wear the marketer’s hat, the manager’s hat, the HR hat and the entrepreneur’s hat.
It’s a tall order.
Nobody’s good at everything. Plus, it’s human nature to gravitate toward what you’re good at, and neglect the other stuff. So in most small businesses there are many tasks that get shoved to the side.
If you’re starting a business, or if your current business is stagnant, do an honest assessment… are you a DIY owner, or a true entrepreneur?
There’s nothing wrong with creating a job for yourself and just being a busy, DIY business owner. You probably won’t ever become a multi-millionaire, but you can make a good living doing the work you love. And you’ll enjoy the freedom that many people covet.
Cheers to that!
If you decide to be a DIY owner, some word of mouth advertising and a little bit of social media might be the only marketing tactics you need.
But if you want to grow your business and be a successful entrepreneur, you’ll need much more than that. You’ll need a systematic approach to marketing, and to your entire business.
If you want to be an entrepreneur you may have to stop doing the work you really love. Either that, or you’ll need to find a true entrepreneur to partner with… an experienced business person whose skill set will balance nicely with your skills as a specialist.
Here’s an example of a specialist who approached his business as an entrepreneur from day one.
In 1985 Scott Campbell graduated from OSU Veterinary School and bought a small-animal veterinary clinic called Banfield Pet Hospital in Portland, Oregon. But instead of spending all his time treating fleas and ticks, he immediately started working on the business model.
Campell’s brand was built with one clear purpose in mind: To provide a better level of care for pets and a better model for the veterinary care industry. He did everything that Michael Gerber recommends in The E Myth…
He devised a long-term strategy. He built new business systems and installed computers. He hired BNResearch to do market research and carefully track customer satisfaction. He basically reinvented the way vets do business.
Scott Campbell didn’t work in his business, he worked on it.
In true entrepreneurial fashion, Campbell took the lone, Banfield Pet Hospital and built it into Medical Management Inc, (MMI). When the company was acquired by Mars, Inc. in 2008 there were over 500 Banfield Pet Hospital locations worldwide, each doing approximately $2.5 million a year.
That might make Scott Campbell the world’s first billionaire veterinarian.
He wasn’t just passionate about pet care. Every vet is passionate about that. He was obsessive about building a business that would provide better health care for pets around the world.
Every DIY business owner is passionate about her line of work. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have gone into that business in the first place. But very few are obsessive about the business of their work.
Most artists are intensely passionate about their painting, or their photos, or their poetry or whatever. But they’re not obsessive about the business part of it. On the contrary… Many absolutely hate it.
But here’s what you need to realize if you’re going to be a successful, DIY owner: You don’t have to do everything well in order to succeed, you just have to do a little more than the next guy.
Yeah. The bar is surprisingly low when it comes to small business marketing and management.
Most of your competitors will also be DIY owners who are NOT following Gerber’s advice. So if you just work ON your business a little bit, you’ll have a competitive advantage over those who only work IN their businesses.
A good place to start is with your marketing.
These days, marketing is a ridiculously confusing jumble of options. Very few small business owners can navigate all that, and still keep up with all their other duties.
So put on your entrepreneur hat, for just a minute. What would she do differently?
She’d hire an experienced marketing person to manage all the moving pieces and put some systems in place that would produce long-term growth. And in the process, she would make life way easier for herself.
That’s the secret to success for DIY owners… find at least one key task that you hate to do, and outsource it to experienced pros. That way, you’ll have more time to work in the business, doing what your love.
If you decide to make the leap in the entrepreneurship, well, either way you’re going to need some help with your marketing. If you want to take your business to the next level give me a call at BNBranding. 541-815-0075.
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