RANDOM THOUGHTS OF AN ENTREPRENEUR – What type of founder are you?

The journey of building a successful business is not a one-way street. There will be times when you have to change lanes.

Let’s be honest: The moment we hold our first business cards in our hands, and it states ‘Founder’ under our name feels awesome, doesn’t it? It is one of those proud moments of most first-time founders and, probably, even serial entrepreneurs.

You have been working endlessly to turn your vision into reality. Becoming a founder is not an easy journey. It requires you to perform tasks that you never thought of, simply because they came up and maybe you did not have anyone else to rely on but yourself. This is the case for many of us when building a business from scratch with no or little money.

 

Start-ups with the aim to become successful businesses go through various development phases. On an organisational level, you may differentiate between:

Phase 1: You build a business from scratch and make sense from chaos

Phase 2: You put roles and systems in place

Phase 3: You grow and scale systematic chaos

Phase 4: You capture your organisational culture by institutionalising rules and systems and become an institution.

As the founder of the SA Innovation Summit, I am at my best in phase 1. I am very good at creating something from nothing. In our group, my co-founder is an excellent phase 2 founder as he is the one who creates order from chaos. Together we are creating phase 3 of our business.  Where we have to create something from nothing but scale with good systems. While we are growing our business, we work with leaders with new styles and enjoy learning from their strengths.

According to Startup Commons (2019), the process of finding suitable team members who share the same interest and passions is critical in the formation phase of a start-up. With the “Startup Development Phases – from idea to business and talent to organization”, Startup Commons created a sophisticated tool that can help you realise when it is time to team up in order to reach the next phase of your business.

One of the main reasons why start-ups fail is the people. Hence, let us take a closer look at the people who run your business and your role as the founder. In his book “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” Michael E. Gerber, American author and founder, describes that every business owner takes on three distinct personalities in how they think about and work within their business: The Entrepreneur, the Technician and the Manager. What differentiates these personalities is their approach and strategies.

The Entrepreneur is the one who develops new ideas, grasps a business opportunity when it avails itself and focuses on closing the gap between where the business is today and where they want it to be.

The Technician lives in the present and is focused on doing the work of developing the product or service close to perfection, selling it on the market and delivering results to clients, customers, or users. 

The Manager is the one who focuses on achieving results through people and systems, pays special attention to the current market trends as well as customer needs and strategises for the future by establishing plans and control mechanisms.

It is rare for a founder to perform all of these three personalities. Therefore, one of the smartest decisions you will have to make as an entrepreneur is to team up; choose people who share your vision and take over some of the responsibilities when you feel overwhelmed by the chaos to keep you going. A valuable piece of advice comes from Christine Caine (speaker, author and activist) who once said: “To build a strong team, you must see someone else’s strength as a complement to your weakness and not a threat to your position or authority.”

Random Thoughts of an Entrepreneur Supporting Entrepreneurs

Author: Dr Audrey Verhaeghe – Chairperson, SA Innovation Summit

This thought-leadership article series is written by an entrepreneur sharing her thoughts and experience with other entrepreneurs. This series explores scaling, investing, the African ecosystem and more.

Keep an eye out every month for Audrey’s random thought

Dr Audrey Verhaeghe is founder and Chairperson of the SA Innovation Summit. She has founder three companies and is currently scaling the SA Innovation Summit into other African countries. Building the ecosystem of founder -led economic activity is her life long mission that she loves and hope to expand year on year.