Monday, September 25, 2006

So you’re a businessman, eh?

So you’re a businessman, eh? You have a registered business, a proven product, and a growing client list. You’re passionate about your business and spend every waking moment at it. You’re confident that you know best how to deal with the problems of the business and you’re there to save the day in case anything goes wrong. You’re a specialist at what to do. No! You’re the best at what you do. Hiring someone else to do a client’s job would be short-changing your client, as you care deeply about your clients.

So you’re a darn good businessman, right?

WRONG!

While consulting for one my clients today I realized that many of us businessmen (term includes both male and female gender) are still victims of what Michael Gerber in his E-Myth series describes as technicians seized with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Angela[1] my client is a dyed-in-the-wool believer in taking personal charge of one’s business. Back in 2000 she took a three-year IT course where she specialized in web development.

Two years into her course she was already bagging clients as the nascent web industry in Kenya took shape. A perfectionist, she gave great value for money, and a satisfied list of clients was testament of her great work. Her clients were always unsolicited and mainly sought her out after referrals from other clients or her web developer colleagues.

Her skills were soon noticed by the training institution she was studying in as they offered her a position as a web developer. Angela took on the job with her usual zeal but bureaucracy, low pay and the inflexibility of working hours soon got her entrepreneurial bug biting.

In 2004 Angela went solo; she whipped up a logo, drew up a portfolio and went into business as a free-lance web developer. Things started out well, referrals from her old clients got the ball rolling and she was making a decent living from her work.But as the clients streamed in and the money piled up things started going downhill. Angela found herself working 90-hour weeks. There seemed to be a new deadline to meet every day and she found herself carrying a blanket to work (for a few hours nap) on the nights before the deadlines. Feeling frustrated that she had become a slave to her work she started sub-contracting out work. This only made things worse. The subcontractors were not perfectionists like her and she found herself redoing almost 100% the work they submitted to her.

Have you ever been in this position? I know I was when I worked as a contractor.

[1] Name changed to protect identity

6 comments:

No rhyme No reason said...

Iam totally in her corner! 4 years ago, I wnet into business for myself and intially with a staff of 6 which have grown to 80 today.

The problem is although I have empowered the staff,I find myself checking and re-checking their work and get so involved that all clients want to only deal with me.

Most times I feel burnt out. I know I should learn to trust and let go but the fear of failer drives me.

Mwenye Nchi said...

Shows the inadequacies of our human resources. If businesses in Kenya, esp in the service industry, want to grow they've got to invest in their people. That dearth of commitment to doing the best job possible has got to be fixed. I have always thought that employees, sub contractors et al (people without explicit ownership in a business) ought to have an sense of ownership in their employer. An understaning that doing the best possible job is actually in their interest (company has satisified clients=more business=more money=better terms of employment). But I guess these are values that cannot be instilled overnight.

Me said...

I am an entrepreneur/perfectionist/control-freak so i understand Angela's situation.

I also LOVE E-Myth.

Entreps. have to learn to delegate EFFECTIVELY otherwise the business will stagnate. Angela missed this.

Perfectionism is good (can be a great differentiator) but can also slow one down big time. Sometimes, "good enough" is okay. They say, dont sweat the small stuff....

egm said...

I already know I am not a business man. I prefer getting my hands dirty and letting others handle the business end of things. Give me specs and let me deal with the implementation as you go ahead and work out the other stuff. If I was to go the business route, it would be to team up with someone keen on that side of things, while I handled the technical side of things.

Muchemi said...

If Angela is planning to own the company solo, then I think a long term strategy of bringing in new talent and training them would be a good long term solution to this. It would ensure that her values are maintained and she would be on her way to building a great company. After all, what's a company but exactly that...a company of people with similar mission, vision and values.

conspiracyofone said...

Angela's dilemma is typical of any freelance web designer's situation. indeed even established entities in this industry have a problem maintaining consistently good quality in their work (have a look at the portfolios of 3mice, metrocomia or dotsavvy to see what i mean) the main reason for this being that it simply is'nt practical to tether a creative to a desk and ask them to churn work for a cheque at the end of the month - if they're worth their salt, they'll eventually leave and set up their own show the moment they've saved up enough to clone their own PC or (as in Angela's case)lease their own space at GBC.

As one well-farmiliar with the situation your client now finds herself mired in, I'd suggest that she:

1) Be extremely picky about the sub contractors she decides to deal with, looking out for consistency in quality of their work and their ability to deliver work as and when due.

2) Betting on the fact that all(good) developers invariably find themselves either swamped with briefs to neck-level or short of work at one time or other, seek to establish a long term working relationship with the developer(s) she picks, whereby she too can take the load off their shoulders when she's short of work and vice versa (this sense of quid pro quo should act as some sort of mutual quality check)

3) Keep expanding her network of developers to contract with one at a time until the capacity of this network outstrips the growth rate of her client base.

this way, she may even just find it more lucrative and less strenous to keep connecting her snowballing list of satisfied clients to one or more of the many talented designers there are out there (why run an inefficient factory when you can turn it into an efficient shop - what's important is the bottom line - right?)

As a freelancer myself, my business partner and I are actually currently working on a plan to start a free internet-based portal targeting freelancers in the tech industry. Membership will be strictly by refferal and vetting by existing members. with emphasis on quality and reliablity rather than numbers, we intend that it be an exclusive club of few but highly talented proffesionals who can keep tabs on each other's availablity for jobs of any scale.

Typical case scenario: I am a freelancer. I have been offered an exciting, lucrative but demanding brief. It will require a database guru, a graphic designer, an information archtitect, a flash animator and a photographer. I obviosly am not all that rolled up into one and besides, i already have three projects on my hands at various stages of completion. What to do?

A: I log into the TechClub's (that the working title)extranet and i view, for every category of proffesional, availability of each member on a calendar-based interface. Through the same extranet, i can contact members about my brief, receive bids for each bit of the project, assemble a team according to peer rating and bid amount, allocate work, avail and receive files, monitor feedback and progress and finally, inform the other members of my own availablity status during and after my project(s).

Neat Huh?

The gist of the idea is, if in my experience, i have found that i can trust and work with you, chances are I can as readily trust and work with other people you trust and have worked with and so on...

Its on that note that i'd be interested to hear what Angela thinks ....