I want to start a business: What skills do I need?

All successful businesses start with a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, it takes a whole lot more than a brilliant idea to ensure a company prospers – and as the owner of your business, the lion’s share of responsibility for your company’s success rests on your shoulders. That’s why you’ve got to harness all the skills at your disposal in order to effectively steer your new enterprise. More often than not, you must also wear multiple hats.

According to small business guru and author Michael Gerber, all the skills you will need to help your business succeed inherently fall under three key roles:

  • The technician
  • The entrepreneur
  • The manager

In Gerber’s 2009 book The E-Myth Revisited, he muses that these unique company roles aren’t separate people – but are actually distinct elements within your personality. As a business owner, you have it in yourself to fill all three roles in unison in order to steer your company towards success.

But it’s crucial you find a happy medium between each role, or your business may fail. To help guide you through each role and skill set, we’ve set up this all-encompassing guide.

What is a technician?

What is a technician?

Gerber reckons the primary reason most small businesses fail is because they are run by a technician – and a whole lot of businesses certainly fail. According to researchers at RSA, as many as 50% of UK start-ups fail within five years of launching. But that doesn’t mean being a technician is a bad thing. In order to succeed, you absolutely must exhibit the skill set of a technician.

But before delving into what skills you require as a technician, it’s worth defining the role itself.

Simply put, a technician is ‘someone who does’. Like a skilled mechanic, designer, programmer or accountant, a technician is an individual who is an expert in their craft. Technicians are great at what they do, and they know it – which is why so many technicians inherently assume they can turn their skills into a successful enterprise. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.

Because technicians are doers, they tend to focus on just one thing at a time. They generally don’t multitask – instead preferring to do one job exceptionally well and finish that task before moving onto the next. These are all fantastic skills for any business owner to exhibit. That being said, when left in isolation those same skills can ultimately spell ruin for a new start-up.

Why?

First and foremost, the technician is generally so into carrying out each task, that he or she is unable to grab hold of any sort of big picture. According to Gerber, technicians subconsciously believe that thinking is unproductive – “unless it’s thinking about the work that needs to be done”.

Thinking about tomorrow, next week or ten years from now gets in the way of the tasks that need to be completed in the here and now. That’s why the technician isn’t interested in ‘why’ – they’re only worried about ‘how’. All ideas must be reduced to a clear methodology in order to demonstrate value.

Bearing all that in mind, it’s these ideas that keep a business running on a day-to-day basis, but cause a business to fail in any forward planning or innovation. These elements are where the entrepreneurial and the managerial roles step into play.

What is an entrepreneur?

What is an entrepreneur

If the technician is a doer, Gerber claims that the entrepreneur is a dreamer. The entrepreneur is someone who reaches for the stars, and is constantly attempting to innovate. Entrepreneurs are always living in the future, and thinking five steps ahead of the competition in order to try and come up with the next big thing.

Entrepreneurs love to develop a grand strategy, want to penetrate new markets and are oozing with creativity. Entrepreneurs are always at their best when dealing with the unknown and working to engineer chaos into harmony.

Again, all successful business owners need to exhibit the skills of an entrepreneur – but you can’t afford to let this element of your personality override your other key roles.

Because the entrepreneur lives in the future, he or she is rarely found lurking in the past, let alone the present. That’s a huge problem for any small business, because it’s those processes taking place in the present that keep a company running smoothly.

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And because entrepreneurs are so passionate about their dreams and their grand vision for the future, Gerber says they often exhibit “an extraordinary need for control”. The entrepreneur requires control over everyone and everything around them to ensure they can concentrate on realising a grand vision. Simply put, entrepreneurs are micromanagers.

It’s through that micromanagement that the entrepreneur creates havoc in any working environment, which isn’t terribly attractive for talented workers attempting to help that individual and their company succeed. Unfortunately, the entrepreneur generally views people as obstacles who are standing in the way of his or her dreams.

Every successful business owner needs to demonstrate the abilities and resolve of an entrepreneur. You’ve got to be creative, forward-thinking and be willing to get stuck in wherever possible to understand all aspects of your business and ensure it thrives. But nobody wants a micromanager, and no business owner can afford to ignore what’s happening in the past or present to guide future business decisions.

That guidance stems from the manager role all successful business owners must play.

What is a manager?

What is a manager?

According to Gerber, the manager is the third and final role all business owners must juggle in order to find success. Where the entrepreneur lives in the future, and the technician lives in the present, the manager lives in the past. He or she craves order and “compulsively clings to the status quo”.

At first glance, the manager sounds like more of a hindrance than anything else. But if you dig a little deeper, it’s not hard to see why the skill set involved in your role as company manager are essential to your start-up’s success.

Why? First and foremost, the manager is detail-oriented. A manager is pragmatic, and he or she is responsible for bringing planning, order and predictability to the table. Managers want to see the big picture, but they do not like surprises. They want everything in a company to be well-organised, and they want each job to work in harmony with every other as part of a well-oiled machine.

Where entrepreneurs see opportunity, managers see trouble. That’s why Gerber is keen to point out “The Manager is the one who runs after The Entrepreneur to clean up the mess”. Managers are constantly attempting to keep entrepreneurs in check, force them to stay grounded and focus on reality.

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Businesses rarely thrive without taking risks – and that’s precisely why no business owner can afford to act as a manager alone. If you become too comfortable with the status quo, your business will inherently fail. You’ll be setting yourself up to fall hard when emerging competition encroaches on your business, and you won’t be testing out new products and new ways of thinking.

As with the technician and the entrepreneur, the manager is destined for failure if he or she acts alone. But Gerber’s book argues that it “is the tension between The Entrepreneur’s vision and The Manager’s pragmatism that creates the synthesis from which all great works are born”.

That’s why you must be able to strike a healthy balance between all three roles in order to give your business the best possible chance for success.

How can you combine the skills of all three roles?

How can you combine the skills of all three roles?

Delving into the psychology of a standard technician, entrepreneur and manager might not be comfortable for all business owners. Reading through Gerber’s definitions, you may have already noticed a few unwanted traits emerging across the ways in which you run your own business. All company owners have been found guilty of being a workaholic, micromanager or wet blanket at some point or another.

But the good news is, you’ve got all three dynamic roles buried deep within you – it’s simply a matter of drawing from the right skills at the right time.

According to Gerber, “the typical small business owner is only 10 percent Entrepreneur, 20 percent Manager, and 70 percent Technician”. Because of that uneven split, the vast majority of businesses are operated according to what needs to be done today. That’s a recipe for failure – so you’ve got to take a step back in order to think about when and where the entrepreneur and the manager can and should be playing a bigger role.

Unfortunately, that’s going to be a matter of trial and error – because the ideal split between each role will vary from person to person. But if you’re struggling getting started to identify where you can create a more even split between your three roles, it’s best to start by assessing the bare bones of your business.

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Go back to your business plan, and look at the ways in which you viewed your business running when you were being guided by your entrepreneurial spirit. Remind yourself how and where your fantastic ideas originated from, and try to get those creative juices flowing in order to spice up your existing processes and product lines.

Likewise, you should be taking a serious look at quality management and review the ins and outs of how your business was designed to operate. Are your processes as efficient as you had planned? Are you achieving what you set out to achieve? These are the sort of questions you should ask yourself as a manager, and if you don’t like the answers you’re coming up with, you should have several key gaps in which to apply your managerial skills.

Wherever possible, you owe it to yourself to sit down and make a list of the things you’re doing well as a technician, as an entrepreneur and as a manager. Likewise, you should be coming up with ways in which you’re lacking in one of these roles, or have let a crucial skill set within a role be overburdened by that of another.

The bottom line

The bottom line

At the end of the day, you already possess all the skills that every successful technician, entrepreneur and manager should have. You know how to do everything you need to be able to do in order to make your business succeed – you’ve just got to exercise the right skills at the right time.

You need to stay balanced, and above all else, you need to remain level-headed. As Gerber points out in The E-Myth Revisited, you need to recognise that “your business is not your life”. You shouldn’t just be concerned with how to better serve your business, but also how your business can better serve your life.

In doing so, you’ll be able to work on your business, rather than in it – and that’s how you’ll be able to generate success as a technician, entrepreneur and manager rolled all into one.