Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wearing My “Entrepreneur” Hat

Let’s say I’m comfortable with two of my three hats as a small business owner: technician and manager. After all these years, I have a pretty firm hold on the creative side of my business. I love writing, editing, coaching, and teaching; and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at them. While my least favorite hat is that of manager, if I’m going to stay in business, I have to wear it and master all that it implies. I continue to work hard on getting that hat to fit. That leaves Hat #3 — entrepreneur.

David E. Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited, describes the entrepreneur as the visionary, the dreamer, and the catalyst for change. In other words, this is the part of us that grows our businesses and sees opportunities. That sounds great, but what does it mean? Well, the “growing the business” part is fairly straightforward. When I’m finished with the project I’m working on, if I haven’t filled the pipeline, I won’t have another project to do. Of course, there is always the element of luck or fate or whatever makes the phone ring when I haven’t done a thing to make it ring.

That happened a lot in the beginning, and I never really knew why. Someone would call and offer me a freelance opportunity. The good news was I had lots of work; the bad news was I didn’t understand what it took to find that work. The magic word was marketing, which, to me, was mysterious and scary.

Like so many small business owners, I muddled through for years until I met a marketing expert who sat me down and taught me the basics … and I mean basics. My friend and marketing guru, Bobette Kyle, has years of experience and a master’s degree in marketing. If she talked nonstop for a year, she couldn’t begin to tell me what she knows; but she has told me enough to make me downright happy to wear my entrepreneur hat. What I once approached with trepidation, I now enjoy and look forward to doing.

What about the “seeing opportunities” part? I would also describe that as the ability to reinvent oneself when necessary. I’ve had to do that many times in the past two decades. When I first started freelancing, I wrote a great many articles for corporate publications. That was an extension of what I had been doing for years and probably would have continued doing if all those corporate magazines and newsletters in St. Louis hadn’t ceased publication. OK, if I didn’t write articles, what would I do? Well, if I put on my entrepreneur hat, I would ask myself what are the needs in the market? And what are the opportunities? The answers determine how I would reinvent myself this time.

If you don’t like change, this idea will not have much appeal. In that case, you aren’t going to like wearing the entrepreneur hat. Fortunately, that hat fits me very well these days.