The Four Roles of the Business Owner

On the Wheel of Life there’s a spoke called “Career.” You want to think about what role you want to fulfill in your small business. Don’t worry about how right now. Just think about your life goals and what kind of work lifestyle you are after. Remember that you want to design your business around your life goals. There are four roles you can choose to fulfill in your small business.

  1. The Technician. What I mean by technician is the one doing the technical work of the business. In a service business, the technician role is obvious, but even if you run a retail store or you are an independent professional, the doing of the work is who I am talking about—the person making the sales calls, processing paperwork, or serving customers. It is the doing of the work.

    Is there anything wrong with being the technician in your business? Absolutely not! If that’s what you truly love to do—if that’s what you are called to do—and you can balance your life, it may be a wonderful thing for you. You may want to do what doctors do—put in place an administrative staff and assistants so you can grow your “practice.” All of the concepts in this chapter will assist you, even if you want to continue doing the technical work. But you must organize the other aspects of the business so you are not so overwhelmed. I want you to be the technician because you want to, not because you feel you have to!

  2. The Customer Service Manager. This level is when you have others doing the majority of the technical work, but you are still managing the service experience. A good example of this is an in-home service company. Say you are a plumber and you are normally the one who does the work. Once you develop a system, even an ordinary plumber can get extraordinary results by simply using the system that you have developed. You are still “controlling” the client experience by directing the action. You talk to the cli- ent over the phone and sometimes stop in to check on the job’s progress.

3. The General Manager. At this level, you have a team that does most of the day-to-day duties—marketing, sales, service, and accounting. But you are there to direct the operation. Sure you can take a vacation and leave someone in charge, but you call the day-to-day shots.

4. The Turnkey Business Owner. This is a level I think all business owners dream of, but, sadly, few ever reach. You have management in place that call the day-to-day shots. You can do what you want to do, when you want to do it. If you want to go away for the summer, you can. Some people believe this is a fantasy. Of course, I’m living proof that this can be done—and I’ve helped others do it too.

But let’s look at some examples that maybe you can relate to—Walmart and Sam’s Club. Could Sam Walton be in every store? No. He loved to be involved where he could, but it was impossible for him to be involved in everything that happened at Sam’s and Walmart. “But Howard, that’s a huge company. What does that have to do with me?” you might ask. At one time, Sam Walton had one store!

What about Warren Buffet? Does he answer the phone at Geico and write insurance? No. Does he work the floor at the Omaha-based furniture store that he owns? Of course not. So the point here is that you have to start somewhere. And the place you want to start is getting your business systematized and organized so it is more predictable. You want to begin the process of replacing yourself in the areas that you are not good at and that you are not supposed to do.