Which business self are you?

Businesswoman thinking by Victor1558

Meet the entrepreneur, the technician and the manager – the three main business selves, or business personality types. Most people identify with only one of these selves; some feel as if they’re a bit of one and a bit of another; while others are able to switch between all three. The fact is we all have all three within us in varying degrees, and we actually need all three in order to run a business successfully.

The latest psychological research shows that there are many facets to our personality, that we have many ‘inner selves’, with some of these inner selves being dominant and defining who we are, while other selves exist in the background. The type of business self you are will depend on which inner self is dominant in you, and it is that dominant self which is running your business. The problem is that some selves are suited to business while others are not. And different selves are good at different aspects of business. So in order to succeed in business it is vital to become aware of what type of self your dominant, or primary, self is and to understand what its strengths and skills are and also what its limitations are. 

It is interesting that many people are not satisfied with how their businesses are going, and sadly, statistics show that many new businesses (over 90%) fail within five years. One reason that so many businesses fail is that most people in business are identified with a self that may be good at one aspect of their business but may not be able to take care of all the aspects of running a business.

For instance, the entrepreneur is the part of us who is creative and innovative. She has ideas that solve problems. If the entrepreneur part of you starts a business then that business will be based on providing an innovative solution to a problem. The entrepreneurial self has vision, it dreams and it sees opportunities. It is constantly looking forward and is focused on innovation. You can not, however, run a business successfully if you are solely identified with an entrepreneurial self. Day-to-day tasks would not get done and few of the ideas this self generates would be seen through to the end.

What you need to complement the entrepreneur is a part of you who will do the actual day-to-day work: the technician. The technical work in a business refers to the work that needs doing in your business, whether it be writing, baking bread or building houses. The technician is the part of us that is the doer. It has specific skills and likes to use those skills. If a technician starts a business then that business will be based on allowing the technician to use his or her skills. It is not focused on finding an innovative solution for the customer but on creating an environment where it can do what it likes. Examples of phrases the technician uses are: “I love helping people – I’ll be a counsellor”, ” I love cooking – I’ll start a restaurant”, ” I love technology and computers – I’ll start an IT consultancy”. The technician is necessary for your business but it also will not lead to business success if it is the only part of you running your business. It works in the business, not on the business. It gets involved with doing the things that need doing and does not see the big picture, nor does it plan for the future.

For a business to succeed there needs to be someone working on it, someone coming up with the ideas and vision, but also someone to plan and implement those ideas: the manager. The managerial self takes the entrepreneur’s ideas and works out how they will be put into practice. The manager is necessary for making sure the technician does not get carried away with tinkering and doing everything herself. The manager can delegate and comes up with systems so things get done efficiently and the business runs smoothly.

You need all three of the business selves described above in order to make your business run smoothly and efficiently and so that it can grow. At the very least, you need these selves in other people who will take responsibility for the three different aspects of running a business. If you are a sole practitioner or have a small business then you need to have all three available as inner selves within you. Then if your business expands, you can delegate the roles to other people. You can choose which role you are best at and focus on that role.


Discover which business self you are

The three business selves do not see eye-to-eye. Actually, each sees the other two as hampering them – just look at how staff talk about management in many organisations, and how management talk about the entrepreneurs, and how the entrepreneurs talk about staff and management. Each sees the others as getting in their way and stopping them doing their work successfully. The truth is, they do in fact need each other in order for the business entity to function. So even though you will be more identified with one or two of the business selves, and may not think very highly of the one(s) you are not so identified with, you can still access the other one(s) to balance your system and gain input from all of them.

Look at the following descriptions of the business selves and find the ones you relate to most (these descriptions are summarised from Michael E Gerber‘s excellent book The E Myth in which he divides the ‘business personality pie’ in this way).

If you are a TECHNICIAN:

You have specific skills you have trained in and enjoy using them. You are focused in the present, often getting caught up in doing your thing. You become annoyed at the restrictive rules of your manager which you see as reducing you to a part of the ‘system’. You find systems dehumanising and impersonal. You like to get on with your work and not have your duties suddenly changed by a new idea from the entrepreneur. You distrust management because they always want you to be more productive. You are interested in how to do your job and how to do it better.

If you are a MANAGER:

You are pragmatic. You plan, order, and think about how to make systems run more efficiently. You are focused on the past, learning from ‘mistakes’ and working out better systems. You see problems in the systems that need fixing. You put into order the things the entrepreneur creates. You clean up the mess the entrepreneur makes.

If you are an ENTREPRENEUR:

You crave control and change. You see opportunities in everything. You are the visionary, the dreamer. You live in the future – you think ‘what if’. You are creative. You are always moving into the future and you often leave others behind – to complete and organise the job you instigated or to clean up after you.

If you now have an idea of which business self or selves you relate to most, you can work on finding the other selves within yourself. There are a number of ways to do this, such as looking within and remembering when in your life you might have used the qualities the other selves have. It may have been in your family, at school, at the playground, at University, or maybe you switch from being one type of self at work and another type at home and even another type when you’re out with friends or when you exercise. Take the time to remember or imagine yourself behaving and thinking in the three different types of business self. If you are unable to do this because you are strongly identified with one of the selves, but are keen to get in touch with the other facets of yourself, the best technique I know of is the Voice Dialogue process, of which there are facilitators worldwide – just google Voice Dialogue and you’ll find web sites with resources pages.

But you can start immediately simply by looking around you, at the people that you either over-value or are judgmental of, and those people will mirror to you the selves you have disowned or are unconscious of within yourself. Then you can see those people as teachers for yourself and learn from them how to develop the qualities that they possess. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to stop being who you are, but that you want to add to who you are. 

To learn more about the inner selves and how they affect your life, my ebook Which Self Are You? gives you an overview of many inner selves in an entertaining and readable way. 


Astra Niedra is a teacher of the self-awareness work Voice Dialogue and the Psychology of Selves, which offers a unique approach to personal growth involving becoming conscious of the many facets of the psyche, such as the Inner Critic, the Pleaser, the Seeker, the Creative, the Rebel, the Adventurer, the Entrepreneur and the Inner Child. She is author of the books Which Self are You?The Perfect Relationship – The 10 Steps to Relationship Magic, and Enlightenment through Motherhood. Details at www.voicedialogue.com

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