Most growth-oriented entrepreneurs are wired for starting, not running, a business. I call these folks 'on-base hitters' because, unlike baseball's 'sluggers,' they focus on earning lots of little wins in the form of starting many small businesses instead of seeking out rare but fantastic successes. (Read more about "on-base hitters" and "sluggers" in Part 1 of this series.)
Yesterday, in Part 2, I described the Kolbe personality test, which allows you to measure yourself on four personality attributes that are predictive of your success and happiness in running a business. People with a high Quick Start score on the Kolbe test thrive in the chaos of a start-up.
One of the reasons Quick Starts rarely grow large businesses is because all of that creativity makes them bad managers. If you've ever watched a 230-pound slugger try to lumber his way to first base, you know it's not a pretty sight. Neither is watching a Quick Start entrepreneur try to manage a large team of employees.
When the boss is a Quick Start, employees get frustrated trying to keep up with all of the new ideas. Employees have trouble determining which brainchild was just a passing thought and which needs their most urgent attention. People with high Fact Finder scores often see their Quick Start boss as an impetuous, superficial risk taker.
That's why most growth-oriented entrepreneurs are happiest—and most successful—in the start-up phase. In a start-up, new ideas are valued at a premium, and there are only a few employees to manage. To follow our baseball analogy, these types are happiest with the quick, regular success of getting on base a lot rather than hitting a rare home run.
Here's an informal quiz to identify whether you're best suited to be an on-base hitter or a home run slugger. Answer each question with a simple 'agree' or 'disagree.'
- I get bored easily.
- I feel overwhelmed by complexity.
- I have higher employee turnover than is normal for my industry.
- I like proposing new ideas that some people think are 'off the wall.'
- I started lots of little businesses before getting into the one I'm running today.
- I'm a big-picture person.
- I started a little business when I was in high school or university.
- I burn out when my business gets too complex.
If you answered 'agree' to more than four of the questions above, you're probably a person who thrives on the variety of the start-up and would flounder running a larger business. Focus on just getting on base by launching the business and creating revenue and a positive cash flow; then either sell it or install a manager.
Clearly, you won't earn as much from the sale of one small business than you would if you hung on and built it up further, but by getting out quickly, you'll retain the energy and creativity to devote to a new business. Collectively, a portfolio of successful start-up businesses in a career could easily surpass the financial success of one home run, and you'll be infinitely happier along the way.
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.