Entrepreneurial Support Systems

What resource is in shortest supply for owner managed businesses?

  • Financing,
  • Skilled people,
  • Marketing and sales talent,
  • Production management,
  • Research and development,
  • Tax management.

How about none of the above?

The scarcest resource for owner managed businesses is someone to talk to who understands both business and business people.  It is part of the entrepreneurial need for focus.  And we have known this for almost 40 years.  York University business professor Rein Peterson pointed it out in his 1977 book, Small Business: Building a Balanced Economy.

Businesses that exist to supply lifestyle money are able to get along, but most entrepreneurs are volatile.  They have hundreds, even thousands of ideas.  They have enormous energy.  They are confident.  They take risks that they believe they can manage.  They are stubborn and having someone help them understand what is happening is useful for them.

They confidante does not need to know much about their particular business, there are consultants and experts for the details.  The entrepreneur already knows it all at some level anyway, just not in a way that is fully developed or even coherent.  Talking about it with someone who can challenge the gaps in reasoning allows them to find the flaws and the hidden opportunities.

The confidante just listens and keeps them on track.

There are fewer confidantes in the world now.  At one time it was the priest or minister, then the family lawyer, eventually the family accountant and now … No one?

Our world is becoming more and more specialized.  The role of the generalist is becoming lost.  The generalist is the interpreter, the one who derives meaning from incoherent ideas.  The one who can help entrepreneurs to focus on opportunities in their own business or life and to do so on their own terms.

Sometimes they can help the entrepreneurs see flaws.

Flaw finding is useful.  It saves money and time and energy.  Entrepreneurs expect to fail some of the time.  The trick is to quit things sooner and let the winners run.

A confidante can help.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact: don@moneyfyi.com

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