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What do you do when you launch your startup, and all you want to do is work directly with the customer, but you find yourself trapped in the office drowning in paperwork?

This was a question a business owner expressed in a business mastermind that I was part of. The business owner said:

 I don’t always know what to do as a business owner. I started out as a technical person with the desire to start a company so that I can make my own decisions and not have to answer to someone else.

Not long after, it seems that I’ve been bombarded with OSHA, HIPAA, PCI Compliances, tax this, tax that, Emergency exit plans, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors! Its all beginning to pile up and I often wonder sometimes why I started down this road…”

– Mastermind Member

As I was listening to the business owner share their frustrations with running a business I began to realize that the business owner was not alone. The SBA (Small Business Administration) reports that over 620,000 new businesses are opened each year, but only 120,000 of those companies make it into their 3rd year of business. There are many factors driving that statistic.

Stephen Covey coined the phrase “Begin with the end in mind” from his best selling book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Many small business owners fail to start their business with the end in mind.

If you want to have a successful business, you must first know the role you want to play within your business.

At the core, whenever a highly skilled person starts a business, most of the time they want to become a solopreneuer. Solopreneurs often look at the benefits of being in control of their own schedule but still has the desire to stay in involved with the decisions around what they charge and the people they work with. This is very different from someone who has a desire to lead a team, or work along side of a team to solve a problem.

Successful business owners choose what role they want to play in their business. There are 3 types of business owners:

Type 1) Solopreneurer — often referred to as a “freelancer”, but this is the practice of working for yourself, building a client list while keeping your hands in the production/service side of the business. 

Type 2) Entrepreneur — this is where you decide to delegate the day-to-day operations of the business to more than yourself. As an entrepreneur, you still have a big role in the actual production/service work and billable hours. In this stage most of your time you’re trying to figure out how to delegate your role across multiple people while continuing to be free of the leadership responsibilities found in larger organizations.

Type 3) Business Leader —  this is where you’re entirely focused on the vision while working “on” the business. You’ve ceased to be involved in the technical production work. You may find yourself leading, encouraging, and coaching your team. Your prior experience makes your leadership palatable to your team. As a business leader, your biggest challenge is becoming a better leader, a better coach, and a better visionary. Most of your energy will be dedicated to finding ways to create a better culture and workplace for your employees to thrive.

So who do you want to be?
What role do you want to play?

Take some time and answer these questions to help you determine whether you want to be a solopreneur, entrepreneur, or a business leader.

  • Question: 1 What do I want more? A, B, or C?
    • A) To have stable income with flexible hours?
    • B) To share the work with a team, while working along side.
    • C) To focus on the big picture and grow your startup.
  • Question 2: Do feel like there is too much work for one person to do and wish you had more help?
    • If yes, you are an entrepreneur, don’t quit, hire more people.
    • If no, it is very likely that you are a solopreneur, and should continue to work independently.
  • Question 3: Do you dream of hiring more people to work on the day-to-day work, so that you can spend more time coaching, guiding and leading your team? Yes or No?
    • If yes, you’re well on your way to becoming a business leader.
    • If no, you’re an entrepreneur.

If you’re a technical person starting a company, sometimes you may find yourself folding under the pressure of building a massive empire when in reality all you want to do is create an environment where you can freely work on the things you love. And what you love actually might be to work “in” the business. That my friend means you are a solopreneur. Or you might be like me. I started out as a designer (a technical role), but had the desire to become a business leader. No longer did I want to play a role in the production work, working in the business. I wanted to instead spend my time working “on” my business.

Whatever role you are striving for, it is important to know where you are and what you want to do. Knowing whether you are a solopreneur, entrepreneur or a business leader and where you want to go will allow you to put the proper systems in place within your life and your business. If you are already in business take the time to evaluate what the finish line looks like, so that you can successfully grow your business.