Accidental or Reluctant: Which type of Business Owner are you?


Michael Gerber is possibly the most often quoted Small Business Advisor that we have on this planet. One of his most repeated ideas is that of the Business Owner definition as being ‘a technician who has had an entrepreneurial seizure.’  That makes sense.

Experience of over thirty years has brought me in touch with three types of Business Owner:

  1. The Accidental Business Owner. The majority of businesses seem to be born out of crisis. Individuals who have lost their jobs, out-grown their employer, are not earning enough or just know that they can do the job better and earn more. The only option? Go into business for yourself. Now, here is a little known secret about earning a salary and owning your own business: It is relatively easy to replace your salary. In the overall scheme of things, you may struggle in year one, but by year two you have it cracked. By year three, you realise that you have more money, more freedom of choice and less time than you need to live. Incidentally and by the way, you have picked up a slew of responsibilities, Customers, Suppliers, maybe even Employees and the Taxman as well as the Bank Manager. Welcome to the realm of Business Owners. You can stay in this place for years, even decades, fall into Option 2 or ultimately make the choice to move into Option 3, one stop short of nirvana.
  2. The Reluctant Business Owner. Parents, relatives, friends, partners and circumstances combine to put you in a role that you never planned, dreamed about and at the heart of it, never even wanted. So maybe you inherited it, moved into the family business or just became so good at what you do, you were awarded, cajoled, convinced or bullied into taking an equity stake. You may still be excellent at what you do, but you have had no training, no desire and no appetite to own and run the business. This is most often evident in your evasive behaviour. When asked to sit in on Interviews, Meetings, Management Teams and what you consider to be the interminable nonsense of running a business, you want to ‘get back to work.’ Everything else is just clutter. Your passive nature will allow you to suffer and fester here interminably, maybe even moving you into Option 1 until such time as you retire or take action to make into Option 3, a step closer to Heaven’s gate.
  3. The Ultimate Business Owner. You have arrived, you want to be here. More important than that, you have asked and answered to the two most important key questions possible:
  • What specific Customer need does my Business exist to satisfy? This leads on to the normal who, how, where and when questions that you must answer to run a business well.
  • The ultimate question is the ‘Why?’ question. Why am I really in business as an owner rather than an employee.  It is about purpose and the Business Owner cannot answer that question honestly without considering what they personally want to gain for their own life.

There’s the challenge: ask the ‘Why?’ Question, before you go into business and on a regular basis thereafter.  For a more detailed, but simple and enjoyable treatise on the subject, check out Simon Sinek, either in the book or on TEDTalks YouTube: ‘Start With the Why?” It leads to focus and clarity about your role as a Business Owner, creating a lifelong, relevant challenge that will ensure that the journey itself is enjoyable, regardless of the outcome.

“Wise are those who learn that the bottom line doesn’t always have to be their top priority.
William Arthur Ward