This post is the third in a series about Entrepreneurial DNA – an exploration of what makes entrepreneurs different from one another. If you haven’t already, it may be helpful to read the first post, “Do You Know Your BOSI Profile? Your Investor Does!” before you proceed. (You will get an overview for the entire series.) In my last post, I described, Entrepreneurial Profile #1 – The Promoter. As a quick recap, the “Promoter” makes up around 23% of the entrepreneurial marketplace. This behavioral profile drives entrepreneurs to be highly optimistic, wired for ground floor opportunities and driven to make as much money as fast as possible – in as many industries as possible.
The “Promoter” meets their opposite when encountering Entrepreneurial Profile #2 – “The Expert.” As you may have guessed, “The Expert” is pumped full of, something we call, “Specialist DNA.” Data shows that Specialist DNA is the most dominant behavioral profile in entrepreneurship. It is the Primary DNA of 45% of all entrepreneurs. To give you some insight into this behavioral group, I’ll introduce you to Sue. If you find yourself resonating with Sue, chances are, you have Specialist DNA as your primary or secondary behavioral trait. To find out for sure, take the free BOSI Assessment.
Unlike Omar, who was bit by the entrepreneurial bug early in his life, Sue entered entrepreneurship as an afterthought. She went through years of schooling, apprenticeship and on-the-job training before setting up her own shop. Sue originally went to school to be a CPA. She studied diligently, got good grades and went to work for a big accounting firm. Several years into employment with her firm, Sue got the sense that being her own boss would give her a much better quality of life (and income) than her employer was providing. Sue fretted for a while about leaving the safety and security of her comfortable job. After all, she recognized the benefits of having a talented support team, a great salary, good perks and a decent growth trajectory. But ultimately, after months of thinking, planning and conducting analysis on her business idea, Sue decided to start off on the entrepreneurs journey. She was, at last, convinced that it was time to call her own shots.
It took Sue a bit longer to pull the trigger on her entrepreneurial career because she’s wired to be more analytical and risk averse than the Omars of the world. She sees herself as cautious, strategic and values safety. These traits had served her well and she planned to approach a career in business in the same thoughtful manner that led to her professional success. When it was time to open the doors of her firm, Sue did all the things that she was supposed to do. She dotted all her “I’s” and crossed all her “T’s”. She ordered the business cards, had a website and brochure created. She even took out yellow page ads and followed industry standard protocols for marketing and advertising. But, ultimately Sue found herself facing a somewhat uncomfortable business reality – lead generation.
Sue joined several local networking organizations. She went out and met the important people in town and she supported a few local causes. She did everything she could think of to promote her company. But each time she was faced with a strong marketing opportunity, she found all her competitors there too! Sue grew frustrated and began to think of everyone in her industry as a marketing copy-cat. Sue didn’t mind marketing her business but she despised selling. Visions of used-car salesmen and pushy timeshare promoters flashed in her mind any time she had to “sell”. She much preferred generating new business through referrals and networking. She loved nothing more than being perceived as the expert in the room – and to have people walk up to her asking her for information about her business. That’s one of the reasons she did some local and regional speaking about her area of expertise – taxation. Events provided her with the opportunity to acquire new clients without having to be pitchman like Omar.
Sue was all about diligent work over the long term. In the story of the tortoise and the hare, Sue was definitely the tortoise. “Slow and steady wins the race” was her motto. She told herself, “I’m not going to do a bunch of risky marketing initiatives and lose my shirt (and reputation) in the process. If I just provide outstanding service to each client, my business will grow because people will talk about their good experience.” Sue dabbled in social media for a while. She set up a company Facebook page, Twitter feed and LinkedIn profile. She followed the step-by-step plans laid out by the social media experts. She posted. She tweeted. She shared engaging content and did her best to spark the conversation. But for some reason, it just wasn’t gaining traction. She was doing everything by the book – but not getting the breakthrough results other entrepreneurs were getting.
“What gives?” Sue wondered. “These other business owners with one-fifth my expertise and a silly product are getting all kinds of followers and activity through social media. Maybe it’s just me.”
When it came time to add to Sue’s team, she prioritized hiring administrative staff. Sue felt comfortable assigning responsibilities for activities like answering phones and daily task management. And, while many of her competitors had robust management teams with high-output leaders, Sue just didn’t see a place for that in her business. She preferred to be the one in-charge. She didn’t like a lot of people giving her risky ideas and grabbing at the steering wheel. Sue valued keeping a tight fist around the company’s finances, operations and business development. While she hired an office manager and marketing manager, truth be told, those were just fancy titles. The reality – nothing significant happened in the firm without Sue’s tacit approval.
A couple of times, Sue outsourced some marketing initiatives to a local firm. However, she was quick to pull in the reins when the marketing firm recommend some “out of the box” campaigns. ”Hmmm. I don’t know. That’s not who we are” she said to the marketing firm. “I don’t feel comfortable saying or doing that.” She read Michael Gerber’s book “The E-Myth” and instantly found herself identifying with his description of the Technician. She agreed completely with Mr. Gerber that she was working IN her business rather than ON it. However, even as she experienced frustration over doing the same thing day-in-and-day-out, she couldn’t imagine doing anything else. In her view, the business was totally and completely dependent on her – and her ability to make it move.
If you find yourself to be somewhat of a “Sue”, then understand that you could share her Entrepreneurial DNA. We call it Specialist DNA. Do you know who else has Specialist DNA? Bill Gates, most small business owners and virtually all service providers. My point? Having Specialist DNA has some significant benefits. Specialist’s can build thriving enterprises. However, it’s important to recognize the shortcomings of having Specialist DNA too. Regardless, of DNA type, every entrepreneur should take the time to discover their innate (and pre-built) strengths and weaknesses and use the information to build a business plan, team and venture that compliments their style. If you don’t, weaknesses will inevitably get in the way, slowing growth and putting you in line with others who have had a very frustrating entrepreneurial journey.
If you contrast Omar from post #2 on up and running with Sue, you’ll see what polar opposites they are in behavior, skill and modus operandi. Here’s the mission critical insight you must read (and re-read).
If Omar tries to be Sue, or if Sue tries to do what Omar does (to get new business for example), they’ll both be very frustrated – and probably fail. The #1 cause of frustration and failure in entrepreneurship today is a one-size-fits-all approach to starting, growing and leading a business. Sue and Omar both have the opportunity to understand their inherent types and plan accordingly to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
In closing, here are some practical insights if you think you may be like Sue (a Specialist DNA entrepreneur).
1. Take the Free BOSI Assessment just to make sure Specialist is your Primary DNA (and not your Secondary). Although you may resonate with parts of Sue’s story, there are 3 other entrepreneurial profiles (or DNA’s) that you may also resonate with. Once you’re sure Specialist is your Primary DNA, take advantage of the next two tips.
2. Determine how you would answer the most important question an “S” needs to answer: “Who is the person and situation for which your company is always the best choice?” Note, if you have S DNA there is a good chance that your first answer will be wrong – this happens 99% of the time.
Specialists are notorious for wanting to serve the world and often end up falsely believing it is possible to be all things to all people (within their expertise of course). For example, it isn’t uncommon for a lawyer to conclude that “business owners” or “mid-sized corporations” are the right audience. And, 10 years ago, that definition may have worked. However, in today’s hyper-targeted world, that audience is too big, too broad – and most importantly – impossible to market to.
To give you an idea of that same lawyer’s answer to the question after an hour or two of arm wrestling with me consider this: ”Startup technology companies who need to raise their first or second round of capital.” Ultimately, the law firm identified the person (startup technology companies), the situation (raising early capital) for which their particular services hit the mark. That doesn’t mean the law firm didn’t serve other customers. But, it does mean that they didn’t waste any time (or money) marketing to others. They focused their messaging, marketing and plans around the customer they loved working with. And, business exploded (in a good way) thereafter.
3. Who’s driving business development? In most S DNA companies, the founder (The S) is in charge or new client generation, client relationships and client service. After all, who better to represent the company and its expertise than the in-house #1 expert right?
As you dig further into the study of Entrepreneurial DNA and what we uncovered in the process, you’ll find that selling and lead generation are not the top gifting of your DNA. In fact if you are a true Specialist, salespeople probably appear sleazy and manipulative to you. It turns out that you and your company will both be better served if you find someone with Opportunist (O) DNA to drive your business development.
I hope that you have enjoyed learning about Entrepreneurial Profile #2 and meeting Sue the Specialist. In the next post, we’ll take a look at Entrepreneurial Profile #3 – Bob the Builder.
Until then, keep it entrepreneurial!