Business Corner

The Entreprenuer's Narrow Part of the Hour Glass

March 30, 2010

Chemark analyzed 120 closely held coatings and adhesives businesses ranging in size from $5 million to $150 million. For arguments sake, we initially defined those heading these privately held companies as "entreprenuers." We understood there are those who would argue that entrepreneurs exist within traded corporations as well, but we chose to focus on the former in this case.

Our research observations basically told us in conclusion, that these entrepreneurs wanted two contradictory satisfactions in their business life:
-Free time to do what they "really" wanted to do; while concurrently
-Wanting to control almost everything, and enjoying the confusion.

The "hour glass" analogy is a very straightforward thesis we tended to prove in our research. Stated simply, therefore, our conclusion was that the typical entrepreneurs within the group we studied wanted more time away from the day-to-day business environment while at the same time enjoying being caught up in the somewhat chaotic minutia of it all. Yes, they even crave returning to what brought them into this business in the first place. Like going back into the lab or the plant and just "tinkering."

Why was this happening?

To answer this question we first had to re-visit the definition of the term entrepreneur itself. Wikipedia defines an entrepreneur as:

...a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. The term is originally a loanword from French and was first defined by the Irish economist Richard Cantillon. Entrepreneur in English is a term applied to the type of personality who is willing to take upon herself or himself a new venture or enterprise and accepts full responsibility for the outcome. Jean-Baptiste Say, a French economist is believed to have coined the word "entrepreneur" first in about 1800. He said an entrepreneur is "one who undertakes an enterprise, especially a contractor, acting as intermediatory between capital and labour."

So, to reassure ourselves that we were defining and describing our efforts correctly, we had to reanalyze our interview pool group and determine how many of the 120 entrepreneurs were currently managing a business that had reached equilibrium-an up and running business-versus, as the Wikipedia definition states, a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea. The emphasis on "new" in the definition forced us to cull out 115 of the 120 interviewees, leaving only five true entrepreneurs by this strict definition.

The question then arises, "If the only reason we entitle heads of closely held businesses entrepreneurs, who have not, by definitional contrast,created anything but instead,manage what someone else invented, what are they to be called?

As a researcher one can change the rules if one wants to but when changing them, there must be a thread of solid rationale behind it.

Therefore, we were forced, by the definition, to redefine our study group as "owners of privately-held, small- to medium-sized coatings and adhesives businesses."

Nevertheless, our conclusions remained unaltered; these business heads were conflicted over their personal desires.

Why is this confliction an important observation?

There are seven solid reasons why it is important to recognize the symptoms in time to do something about them. The reasons are:
-The leader constantly sends mixed signals to his/her organization;
-It causes a developed strategy to become flawed to near useless;
-Directional confusion results;
-Misdirection causes sequence slowdown;
-Good people leave the organization;
-Conversely, it makes it difficult to hire good people; and
-Finally, the business may not fail revolutionarily, however, it will eventually fail in some manner.

Please understand that we have not discounted many of the solid and good features and accomplishments of this group. These leaders have helped to build their respective companies by using great skills in achieving success in the past. Our consideration is within their current leadership and the signals they are sending through both their own organization as well as the marketplace since many times the leader of the business is recognized as the business itself.

Ironically, there are simple but tough disciplines that can be administered to these types of privately held businesses that can relieve their organizations of much of these stressful issues. Here are the key disciplines:
-Self-observation. A process ofan unbiased look in the mirror;
-Template. Custom development of a success template;
-Development of play book. Coach and correct; and
-Process of style change. Bringing reports into the process.

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