Most people start businesses because they love doing something so much, they know they can do it better under their own banner. That’s an artist – not a smock and beret artist – but an artist who creates something new or better. Maybe that’s why you started your business. Starting a business out of passion for the work is fantastic – running a business out of passion for the work is usually a road to insolvency.
A business is providing a product or service – efficiently – to enough buyers. Passionate artistry is a critical part of the business, but it’s still just a part. A business also needs operations, sales & marketing, management, finance & accounting and strategy. That’s an enforcer – not a break the knee caps enforcer – but a person who translates the artist’s creations into plans and tasks and profits.
Every business needs both the artist and the enforcer. The artist – without the enforcer – gets stuck in the beauty of his work. The enforcer – without the artist – has no work to execute. I see it all the time.
This year, I met Dan, a residential contractor at an entrepreneurial fair, who said his bu
siness was in trouble. He said he had a crew of 4 and a flow of business, but still struggled. He also told me – with great pride – how he personally specializes in quality mill work. And, I got it.
“Do you have an enforcer?” I asked him.
He shook his head and pointed his finger at his chest. “I’m the enforcer.”
I nodded. “That’s the problem.”
He seemed a little offended, so I asked him,
“Look, you love actually working onsite, right?”
“I’d do it for free.”
“Right,” I answered. “And you should continue to love it. But, you also need someone to keep your crew and YOU disciplined, on time, on budget, with your bills going out and your cash coming in. You need to trust that person, and sometimes to defer to that person.
He actually seemed relieved. We talked about how he could find that person. I hope he was successful, because he seemed like a great guy.
In contrast, I also met Jimmy, a software developer who had the opposite problem. I was referred to Jimmy when I was looking for someone to help a friend build a web app. I sat with Jimmy and listened to him talk about his business goals. He was frustrated, not because he lacked discipline – because he lacked ideas. He knew how to execute a business, but he couldn’t figure out a new venture to start. Jimmy also refused to give up his dream of being the artist, even though he just couldn’t summon the creative juice to dream up an idea worth pursuing.
I’m totally sympathetic to Jimmy’s plight. In my law practice, I’m an enforcer – leaving artistic impulses at the door is a professional necessity. I also am one of the best law project managers I know (though the bar is low). So, in Profit and Laws, Inc., my business, I assumed I could be both the artist and the enforcer. Turns out, I can’t. In my business, I’m the artist. I dream up projects and products and services and I need an enforcer to get me to release them. For awhile, Roxanne Saylor has been my enforcer (and not always a kind one). As Profit and Laws, Inc. gets bigger and better, we know we need new partners and new enforcers to both ramp us up and reign us in.
And, so do you. This year, consider whether you generate the art or the rules, whether you would be better switching sides and whether you have the right partners. Be honest. Be creative. Be bold.
NOW, TELL US: Which one are you – the artist or the enforcer or both? Let us know in the comments, now!
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