As I pointed out in the first part of this series, baseball players typically know by their physical attributes whether they're a leadoff hitter who can get on base frequently or a slugger who swings for the fences and drives in runs. But as an entrepreneur, how do you know if you are best suited to start lots of small companies or to try to grow one large one?
The trick is to understand your personality. For the past nine years, I have attended a quarterly workshop offered by the Strategic Coach. 'The Coach,' as it is known to the initiated, specializes in working with entrepreneurs to help them achieve both business and personal success.
Prior to my first Strategic Coach workshop, each attendee was asked to complete a personality test known as the Kolbe test. The Kolbe test measures people on four personality attributes:
'Fact Finders' are people who seek details before making decisions. Just as picking at a single yarn in an old sweater unravels it, each answer to a fact finder's question triggers a new set of questions. The fact finder seeks out the answers to those questions before making decisions.
'Follow Through' people love systems. They think in a linear fashion, where step 1 leads to step 2 and so on. They love process and create systems when they are confronted with chaos.
'Quick Starts' enjoy initiating new things. They are creative problem solvers and think laterally. Easily bored, Quick Starts tend to begin lots of projects but need help finishing any of them.
'Implementers' live in the physical world and enjoy building and fixing things. They thrive in environments that allow them to work with their hands.
When you take the Kolbe test, you award yourself a score of 1–10 on each attribute. A score below four on an attribute means you actively avoid the behavior; middle scores of four to six mean you go along with the crowd on that attribute; and a score of seven-plus on a single trait means that you will actively initiate the behavior.
My first Strategic Coach class was made up of 60 growth-oriented entrepreneurs, most of whom had started a number of businesses in their careers (on-base hitters). The facilitator started the day with a poll of our Kolbe scores. When she asked how many people scored seven or higher on the Fact Finder scale, about one-third of the hands went up. Just three or four hands rose when she inquired about people with high Follow Through scores. When she asked if anyone got a score of seven or higher on Quick Start, virtually every hand in the room went up.
My Kolbe scores were as follows:
Fact Finder: 7
Follow Through: 4
Quick Start: 7
I like asking lots of questions before making a decision (Fact Finder: 7); I can follow a set of rules if you insist (Follow Through: 4); I like the start-up phase of running a business (Quick Start: 7); and you don't want me anywhere near your IKEA furniture (Implementer: 2).
If you score seven-plus on Quick Start, chances are you're going to be happiest starting lots of smaller businesses in your career (on-base hitter) rather than one larger one (slugger). As a business grows in complexity, the need for higher Follow Through scores increase and your high Quick Start score goes from an asset in the start-up days to a liability as your business will need more structure to support its size. (Read Part 3.)
John Warrillow is the author of Built to Sell: Turn Your Business into One You Can Sell. He has started and exited four companies. Most recently John transformed Warrillow & Co. from a boutique consultancy into a recurring revenue model subscription business, which was acquired by The Corporate Executive Board. In 2008 he was recognized by BtoB Magazine's 'Who's Who' list as one of America's most influential business-to-business marketers.