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SMEsChat: Beware of ‘entrepreneurial employee’ trap

Entrepreneurs are essentially risk-takers; action oriented people who believe more in their own convictions than on any expert’s advice.
They want to get things done without wasting. They are so busy in their enterprise that they have no time for reading books and articles that are recommended by the experts.

A presentation entitled Build a Business, NOT a Job put the entrepreneurial mindset into perspective.

The first level in entrepreneurship is when you are a one-man band, responsible for everything and working a 100-hour week with no off-days. You look for customers, receive orders or enquiries, do the work, deliver it when finished, collect payments, chase debtors, pay creditors and manage the finances. Nothing happens in the business if the “boss” is away. The company is you.

Level two is when you have one or two employees but you still do most of the technical work because you have the knowledge and skills. You work fewer hours than does the entrepreneur on level one but you are still the business.

Level three entrepreneurship is when you have a business system, financial and operating controls and a team that does the work, whether or not you are there. The business can operate without your presence.

Most entrepreneurs start businesses at level one. Unfortunately, the majority remain there. They have no time to relax, read books or network. Hence we hear them say “I have no time for that. I’m a businessman, I am busy.”

Level one businesses will never grow, because you cannot split yourself into two or four. And they are dangerous; if the owner drops down dead that’s the end of the business.

In many cases the owner mixes up business and personal funds and does not keep written records of business transactions, creating chaos for his family when creditors come demanding their dues.

I know of a “rich” businessman who owned several grocery shops, bottle stores and grinding mills. He had a big house and numerous motor vehicles. To the surprise of many people, a few months after the man passed away, all the businesses, cars and the house were taken away, presumably by creditors.

The only way to grow and succeed in business is to move up the levels until you reach the third level.

With systems in place, the work gets done faster and more efficiently, more customers come and the business grows. The entrepreneur can afford to study for his MBA or go on holiday and the business doesn’t stop. You can even create other new businesses and increase your wealth.

To move up the levels, you need to get out of the “entrepreneurial employee” mindset. You are an employee if you still do most of the work in your own business. It’s a trap that will hinder your business’ growth and your own success.

How do you get out of the “entrepreneurial employee” trap?

The experts that some “on the ground entrepreneurs” want to ignore have studied and researched businesses and developed systems and models to help you build solid businesses that operate and last without your daily presence.

Richard Branson, the billionaire owner of the Virgin Group, started up in small cottage industries but went on to set-up a worldwide business empire.
He did this, not by micro-managing his companies, but by seeking expert advice and hiring competent professionals to run the businesses. When planning to start an airline, he called a former airline owner, Sir Freddie Larker, to ask for advice.

About the Author

Phillip Chichoni is the co-coordinator of SME BusinessLink, an insights, opportunities and resources sharing network for SMEs and entrepreneurs. His email address is chichonip@gmail.com.

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