Today I’m sharing a concept introduced by Michael Gerber many years ago by his book, “The eMyth.”
The idea was that at least three personalities co-live inside every business person: the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician. They constantly battle to take the dominant position inside you.
Meanwhile, a business experiences different phases throughout its life-cycle: infancy, adolescence, and maturity. At each stage, it may require a different personality to take control to harmonize the development. And each personality has its strength as well as its boundary in affecting growth.
The Technician’s boundary is determined by how much he can do himself. The Manager’s is defined by how many technicians he can supervise effectively into a productive effort. And The Entrepreneur’s boundary is a function of how many managers he can engage in pursuing his vision.
Read on for the full excerption.
The Entrepreneur; The Manager; The Technician
If it’s true that within each businessperson there are three personalities, rather than just one, can you imagine what a mess that makes?
“In your business, you would see how one part of you craves a sense of order, while another part of you dreams about the future. You would see how another part of you can’t stand being idle, and jumps in to bake, and to clean up, and to wait on customers, the part of you who feels guilty if she isn’t doing something all the time. “In short, you would see how The Entrepreneur in you dreams and schemes, The Manager in you is constantly attempting to keep things as they are, and The Technician in you drives the other two crazy. You would see that it not only matters that your personalities are not in a balanced relationship with each other but that your life depends on gaining that balance. That until you do, it’s a war! And it’s a war no one can win. “You would also see that one of your personalities is the strongest of the three (or four, or five, or six), and that she always manages to control the others. In fact, if you watch long enough, you’ll begin to understand how devastating the tyranny of your strongest personality is to your life. And you’ll see that without balance, without all three of these personalities being given the opportunity, the freedom, the nourishment they each need to grow, your business cannot help but mirror your own lopsidedness. “So it is that an entrepreneurial business, without a Manager to give it order and without a Technician to put it to work, is doomed to suffer an early, and probably very dramatic, death. And that a Manager-driven business, without an Entrepreneur or a Technician to play their absolutely critical roles, will put things into little gray boxes over and over again, only to realize too late that there’s no reason for the things or the boxes she put them into! Such a business will die very neatly. “And that in a Technician-driven business, without The Entrepreneur to lead her and The Manager to supervise her, The Technician will work until she drops, only to wake up the next morning to go to work even harder, and the next, and the next. Only to discover, long after it’s too late, that while she was working someone moved a freeway through the store!”
The entrepreneurial personality turns the most trivial condition into an exceptional opportunity. The Entrepreneur is the visionary in us. The dreamer. The energy behind every human activity. The imagination that sparks the fire of the future. The catalyst for change. The Entrepreneur lives in the future, never in the past, rarely in the present. He’s happiest when left free to construct images of “what-if” and “if-when.” In science, the entrepreneurial personality works in the most abstract and least pragmatic areas of particle physics, pure mathematics, and theoretical astronomy. In art, it thrives in the rarefied arena of the avant-garde. In business, The Entrepreneur is the innovator, the grand strategist, the creator of new methods for penetrating or creating new markets, the world-bending giant. The Entrepreneur is our creative personality—always at its best dealing with the unknown, prodding the future, creating probabilities out of possibilities, engineering chaos into harmony. Every strong entrepreneurial personality has an extraordinary need for control. Living as he does in the visionary world of the future, he needs control of people and events in the present so that he can concentrate on his dreams. Given his need for change, The Entrepreneur creates a great deal of havoc around him, which is predictably unsettling for those he enlists in his projects. As a result, he often finds himself rapidly outdistancing the others. The farther ahead he is, the greater the effort required to pull his cohorts along. This then becomes the entrepreneurial worldview: a world made up of both an overabundance of opportunities and dragging feet. The problem is, how can he pursue the opportunities without getting mired down by the feet? The way he usually chooses is to bully, harass, excoriate, flatter, cajole, scream, and finally, when all else fails, promise whatever he must to keep the project moving. To The Entrepreneur, most people are problems that get in the way of the dream.
The managerial personality is pragmatic. Without The Manager there would be no planning, no order, no predictability. The Manager is the part of us that buys stacking plastic boxes, takes them back to the garage, and systematically stores all the various sized nuts, bolts, and screws in their own carefully identified drawer. He then hangs all of the tools in impeccable order on the walls—lawn tools on one wall, carpentry tools on another—and, to be absolutely certain that order is not disturbed, paints a picture of each tool on the wall where it hangs! If The Entrepreneur lives in the future, The Manager lives in the past. Where The Entrepreneur craves control, The Manager craves order. Where The Entrepreneur thrives on change, The Manager compulsively clings to the status quo. Where The Entrepreneur invariably sees the opportunity in events, The Manager invariably sees the problems. The Manager builds a house and then lives in it, forever. The Entrepreneur builds a house and the instant it’s done begins planning the next one. The Manager creates neat, orderly rows of things. The Entrepreneur creates the things The Manager puts in rows.
The Manager is the one who runs after The Entrepreneur to clean up the mess. Without The Entrepreneur there would be no mess to clean up. Without The Manager, there could be no business, no society. Without The Entrepreneur, there would be no innovation. It is the tension between The Entrepreneur’s vision and The Manager’s pragmatism that creates the synthesis from which all great works are born.
The Technician is the doer. “If you want it done right, do it yourself” is The Technician’s credo. The Technician loves to tinker. Things are to be taken apart and put back together again. Things aren’t supposed to be dreamed about, they’re supposed to be done. If The Entrepreneur lives in the future and The Manager lives in the past, The Technician lives in the present. He loves the feel of things and the fact that things can get done. As long as The Technician is working, he is happy, but only on one thing at a time. He knows that two things can’t get done simultaneously; only a fool would try. So he works steadily and is happiest when he is in control of the work flow. As a result, The Technician mistrusts those he works for, because they are always trying to get more work done than is either possible or necessary. To The Technician, thinking is unproductive unless it’s thinking about the work that needs to be done. As a result, he is suspicious of lofty ideas or abstractions. Thinking isn’t work; it gets in the way of work. The Technician isn’t interested in ideas; he’s interested in “how to do it.” To The Technician, all ideas need to be reduced to methodology if they are to be of any value. And with good reason. The Technician knows that if it weren’t for him, the world would be in more trouble than it already is. Nothing would get done, but lots of people would be thinking about it. Put another way, while The Entrepreneur dreams, The Manager frets, and The Technician ruminates. The Technician is a resolute individualist, standing his ground, producing today’s bread to eat at tonight’s dinner. He is the backbone of every cultural tradition, but most importantly, of ours. If The Technician didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done. Everyone gets in The Technician’s way.
The Entrepreneur is always throwing a monkey wrench into his day with the creation of yet another “great new idea.” On the other hand, The Entrepreneur is always creating new and interesting work for The Technician to do, thus establishing a potentially symbiotic relationship. Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way. Since most entrepreneurial ideas don’t work in the real world, The Technician’s usual experience is one of frustration and annoyance at being interrupted in the course of doing what needs to be done to try something new that probably doesn’t need to be done at all. The Manager is also a problem to The Technician because he is determined to impose order on The Technician’s work, to reduce him to a part of “the system.” But being a rugged individualist, The Technician can’t stand being treated that way. To The Technician, “the system” is dehumanizing, cold, antiseptic, and impersonal. It violates his individuality. Work is what a person does. And to the degree that it’s not, work becomes something foreign. To The Manager, however, work is a system of results in which The Technician is but a component part. To The Manager, then, The Technician becomes a problem to be managed. To The Technician, The Manager becomes a meddler to be avoided.
To both of them, The Entrepreneur is the one who got them into trouble in the first place! The fact of the matter is that we all have an Entrepreneur, Manager, and Technician inside us. And if they were equally balanced, we’d be describing an incredibly competent individual. The Entrepreneur would be free to forge ahead into new areas of interest; The Manager would be solidifying the base of operations; and The Technician would be doing the technical work. Each would derive satisfaction from the work he does best, serving the whole in the most productive way. Unfortunately, our experience shows us that few people who go into business are blessed with such a balance. Instead, the typical small business owner is only 10 percent Entrepreneur, 20 percent Manager, and 70 percent Technician. The Entrepreneur wakes up with a vision. The Manager screams “Oh, no!” And while the two of them are battling it out, The Technician seizes the opportunity to go into business for himself. Not to pursue the entrepreneurial dream, however, but to finally wrest control of his work from the other two.
If we are to be successful at this, what we must do, instead, is to give the undeveloped Entrepreneur in each of us the information he needs to grow beyond the limitations of The Technician’s Comfort Zone so as to experience a vision of a business that works. What we must do, instead, is to provide our inner entrepreneur with a model of a business that works, a model that is so exciting that it stimulates our entrepreneurial personality—our innovative side—to break free of The Technician’s bonds once and for all. What we must do, instead, is discover a model that sparks the entrepreneurial imagination in each of us with such a resounding shock that by the time The Technician wakes up to the fact it will be too late, The Entrepreneur will be well on his way. But, at the same time, if the model is to work, if the model is to awaken The Entrepreneur within each of us to begin to rebuild our businesses around the Entrepreneurial Perspective they so desperately need to flourish, The Manager and The Technician need their own models. Because if The Entrepreneur drives the business, The Manager must make certain it has the necessary fuel for sustenance, and that the engine and chassis are in a good state of repair. If The Technician is to be satisfied, on the other hand, there must be a model that provides him with work that satisfies his need for direct interaction with every nut and bolt. In short, for this business model of ours to work, it must be balanced and inclusive so that The Entrepreneur, The Manager, and The Technician all find their natural place within it, so that they all find the right work to do.
Gerber, Michael E.. The E-Myth Revisited
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