In working with scores, or even perhaps hundreds of business owners (I never counted) over the last almost 25 years, I’ve noticed that most business owners break down into the following categories. They are listed in no particular order.
Visionaries are guys with huge, grand plans. They are usually extroverts, highly intelligent, super motivated, very well-spoken and do well in front of groups. They are strongly passionate and are very good at getting others excited about their ideas. Many Silicon Valley startup guys are in this category, as was Steve Jobs and Walt Disney.
The problem with the Visionary is that he’s locked into the big picture and often screws up on the details. Usually Visionaries need to partner with more nerdy, anal people to actually get things done. Visionaries are also often highly emotional, have big tempers, and get really pissed off when the things don’t go their way.
This is the reluctant business owner who secretly hates his own business. To him, his entire business is a huge pain in the ass and he’d rather just retire or do something else, but, for whatever irrational reason, he thinks he can’t.
He is always suspicious of everyone. He can’t stand his employees and wishes they would all just go away. He’s always expecting his vendors to rip him off and he treats them accordingly. His employees tiptoe around him in a near-constant state of terror.
Grumps are super meticulous and anal. They will spend hours of their time trying to save $40. They are hard workers, but almost always work on the exact wrong things. The irony is that sometimes Grumps can be very successful financially, but they’re always stressed out and never really happy.
The Spastic is the extremely excited extrovert who is constantly bouncing around from one project to the next. He’s always happy and excited, but his business is usually a mess. His office is a mess, his desk is a mess, his books are a mess, everything’s all screwed up, and his exasperated employees, as much as they love him, have to work very hard to keep him in line and keep everything afloat.
Everyone loves the Spastic, including his employees, vendors, and customers. He’s the nicest, most fun guy in the world. But people who look at the internal workings of his business are amazed he’s still in business with all the constant chaos. Spastics waste thousands upon thousands of dollars a year in wasted expenses and wasted time. Like the Visionary, it’s usually a good idea for a Spastic to somehow partner with a more organized person to help keep him in line.
Perhaps the opposite of the Spastic, the Tactician is a mastermind at both planning and execution. He researches, makes detailed plans of action, then he puts his head down, works hard and focused, and implements his plans just as he designed. Because of their focus on both planning and action, Tacticians are usually very successful. They don’t fart around and are highly efficient and effective.
The downside of Tacticians is that unlike Visionaries, Tacticians can sometimes lose sight of the big picture and can spend years of their lives diligently working on the wrong projects. They are also highly robotic and don’t naturally engender a sense of camaraderie like the Spastic does; Tacticians will quickly fire employees and customers alike without a second thought so they can get back to work on their master plan, and they can really rub people the wrong way if they aren’t careful. They tend to be lone wolves and can miss out on huge business opportunities that involve working with others. (FYI, I am a Tactician.)
The Worker is a simple, hard-working, blue-collar type who woke up one day and found himself running a business. He didn’t really think it through as a goal like most other entrepreneurs; instead, it just kinda happened.
Workers are usually very friendly, very pleasant to work with, and are down-to-earth people. Their companies are usually well-run but they never really take off or do anything amazing. A business run by a Worker will tend to stay small and simple.
Workers tend to lack both vision and management skills. They don’t delegate well and often work very hard on tasks they shouldn’t, stressing themselves out.
This is the pure sales guy who started a business. He has a fantastic personality, is a great salesperson, and a real go-getter. He usually dresses very nice, is often good-looking, and is usually an extrovert (though there are introvert Salesmen as well).
He’s the front man of the company, and spends most of his time out in the world doing deals and closing sales. He usually has someone back at the office who actually runs the internal workings of the company, which is good, since the Salesman has no interest in that kind of thing. They aren’t nearly as big of thinkers as Visionaries, they tend to be a little more realistic in their goals, and have little to no actual management skill, but they tend to combine the strategic thinking of the Tactician with the work ethic of the Worker to great effect.
Your job is to identify which of the types you likely are (or will be) and be aware of both your strengths and weaknesses as a business owner, since you will have both.
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