I recently had a talk with Amy Bruske, the president of Kolbe Corp, about the meaning of entrepreneurship. Bruske has observed three types of folks, all of whom are necessary in a business: entrepreneurs, business owners, and employees.
We tend to hold entrepreneurs and business owners on a pedestal and think of employees as cogs in a machine. I want to challenge that notion.
Let’s take a look at how this plays out:
1. Entrepreneurs are those who create something new from nothing, whether that is a new product, a new service, or new level of effectiveness of an existing product or service (think Uber).
Obviously, entrepreneurs are critical in innovating, but there is a case to be made that at some point, a business can be harmed by the presence of entrepreneurs. They often do not play well with others, and they are sometimes fidgety. Execution, maintenance, and sustainability are oftentimes not their strength. Once they create something new, they need to move on and create something else. Often entrepreneurs disrupt their own business because disruption is what they naturally do. This disruption, though, can be at the detriment of the very business they created.
I mention this because entrepreneurs tend to get all the glory, but the other folks are important, too.
2. Business owners are those who are given an already-created concept and who can grow market share, profitability, and effectiveness of a business.
A true business owner is more than a caretaker. True business owners must have courage and persistence. They must be able to execute through their apprehension with confidence. These folks may be fearful, but they know they can work things out—somehow, someway. This knowledge does not stop them from being scared, but they work through the fear nonetheless.
3. This leaves us with everyone else. These are the folks who are and will never be owners or entrepreneurs. Rather, they carry out the tasks of a business with guidance and direction.
Do not think of employees as less-than. Rather, think of them as caretakers and cultivators. They are the ones who lovingly tend to a portion of the garden that is a business. Every business needs them. After all, an entrepreneur’s brilliant idea is just a floating abstraction absent the executors and implementors who make it happen. These people, when they are in the right position, are the geniuses and the specialists who make an idea come to life. They should, as such, hold as much glory as the entrepreneurs and the business owners.
When placed in the right position (understanding the Kolbe A Index of an employee can help with this), your employees can be heroic. In fact, if you have been an entrepreneur or a business owner for long, I imagine that you have already had employees who shine, who amaze you with their talent.
I propose that if you are critical or disparaging of your employees, it is likely that you do not have the right people in the right positions. It is your job, then, as a business owner responsible for steering the ship, to correct course. Rather than belittling the role of the employee, ask more of yourself, your leadership abilities, and your mastery of hiring process.
If you need help with this, you only need to look as far as #RSJSwenson. I would be happy to arrange a consultation with my partner, Eric Swenson, who is brilliant at leadership management. In fact, our team at Rose, Snyder & Jacobs recently had the pleasure of completing a series of leadership-training with Eric, and the reaction was incredible.