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The Technician and the Entrepreneur

Technician & Entrepreneur

There is a revolution occurring. It is changing business, changing families, changing lives. Information technology is now providing people like you and me the tools we need to work from literally anywhere. In today’s new marketplace, the entry cost to running a small technical business has changed from capital to courage.

Today all you need to become an independent contractor is your own toolbox, some technical skill, and a touch of gumption. The interesting part is that despite all this newly found freedom, the question I get more than all the others combined is how long did it take you to get stable and secure? The answer to this question is completely and totally based upon the path you choose, that of the technician or the entrepreneur.

Reaction #1: The Technician

Security and no money stress. Oh man, do I relate!

My wife kept asking me the same questions day after day. When we went surfing, my friends would ask, “How are you doing? You making any money yet?” The landlord didn’t exactly declare, “Oh, you’re going indy? Let’s just not worry about rent this year until you figure it out.” The fact is that money is a harsh reality that holds great sway in our daily lives. And no, I won’t skip out answering: it took me close to 2 years.

The question itself is deeply rooted in the thought process of a technician turned owner. In The E-Myth, Michael Gerber explains that almost every technician begins their business by looking inwards to define their skill, and only looks outwards after to ask, “How can I sell them?”

I started the same way. I had a bag of web skills (nice analogy, Peter) and a willingness to go so far above and beyond the call of duty, often for free, that it was somewhat ridiculous. I was thrilled to do whatever came my way. I was determined to survive, find more work and do the job I loved. And I did.

Hard work did not scare me, and the ability to control my day is a gift I treasure. I hit the pavement and learned to sell. My income was entirely dependent on my own efforts, my technical and my people skills. It was great when things went well, and exhausting when they didn’t. It took a little while but I thrived. I have not had a job in 7 years.

Reaction #2: The Entrepreneur

Do you want to own your own job or a build a business?

Reaction #2 came later and is a bit more complicated. It was born the day I realized I didn’t own a business, I owned my own job. That realization was nurtured by my mentor Tom when he began asking me questions. Questions like: what was my exit strategy?

Exit strategy? If you took me out of my business, there was no business. And that was his point. If I could not be replaced, then I just owned a job. And with all the clients I was trying to please, a pretty demanding one at that.Tom could travel for 6 month, not work a single day, and he would make more money than me.

Let me explain. I picked Tom as a mentor because he had successfully systematized his company so that it provided an income stream even if he was not present. The idea intrigued me. As our relationship progressed, Tom began to hand me books and talk to me. He explained the difference between a self-employed technician and an entrepreneur business owner.

Back to the E-Myth. The Entrepreneur starts with a picture of a customer. The whole business will be created in order to solve some problem for that customer. It is built purposefully with a structure and a vision. The owner is aware of the needs of the business, and personal income is not the primary driving factor. In fact, most entrepreneurs rarely make anything in the short term.

Think of it this way. Your job as the owner is to prepare yourself and your business for growth. To educate yourself sufficiently so that, as your business grows, the business’ foundation and structure can carry the additional weight. The business is there for one reason – for the customer.

A little about us: moving from Technician to Entrepreneur

I used to love the fact that everyone called me. I was the man. The owner. My clients were not buying a product, they were buying me, heart and soul. A few years back I finally got to the point where I wish everyone would stop calling me. I wanted to stop juggling so many balls. I might have quit. Then I met Tom and he showed me that you can own a business that doesn’t own you.

Today, Peter & I are no doubt transitioning to entrepreneurs. We see a huge need and are gearing up our business to provide a solution. No, I can’t tell you all about it quite yet. Come back around November for the big unveiling. We have turned away a lot of work this last month in order to make the time to prepare for the future. It’s scary saying no to so much money (I struggle with it every day), but it’s the first step.

We leave soon to a business retreat to review the last year, learn our lessons and write a plan for the future. I have a lot of notes and ideas. This is going to be good. I’d invite you all to join us, at least in spirit.

The Big Question

In response to the big question: I see freelancing as the most stable form of income I have ever had. It took some serious elbow grease to start her up, and consistent tune-ups, but for the lifestyle I have, I’ve rarely seen better.

Decide for the time being if you want your own job or to build a business. Both are great. They are simply different paths. What I love about the technical revolution is that today, the reality of owning your own job does not have the severe financial risk it once did. You can truly own your job and have a great life. We do.

Whether on not you choose the route of the technician or the entrepreneurial, Michael Gerber warns you will need to learn many aspects of running a business. You will need to cultivate the technician, the manager and the entrepreneur inside you. It will ensure your long term freedom.

And, if it is in your future, it will prepare you for the day you finally see your opportunity for service. Your chance to build a great business.