Imagine for a moment that on your way to the office one morning, through no fault of your own, a car careens across an intersection and slams into yours. Awakening in hospital, your first thought is that you are grateful to be alive, even though you will be out of action for a while. The next thought that strikes you, with perhaps even more impact, is what is going to happen to your business.
Craft vs enterprise
I experienced this journey when I heard that my father at the age of 51 had suffered a stroke and would not be able to walk or talk for a long time. In that moment I realised the cold, hard truth – his business, which had been in operation for over 27 years and had consumed so much of our family’s time, energy and resources, could not survive long without him. You see, my father ran his business as a craft, and when you do, it cannot survive without you.
In my book, The Laws of Extreme Business Success, I describe the challenge of being a craft in the Law of Ego. In this law we see that there is a very clear distinction between being a craft and being an enterprise. A craft business is one where it is all about the specific skills of its founders.
Perhaps as a hair stylist you opened a hair salon, or as a baker you started a biscuit business from home. This was the case in my father’s business, which was founded on his excellent skills as a plumber. Although there is nothing wrong with remaining a craft, it is important to be clear that you own a job and not a business.
Too often business owners are so focused on what they can get from their businesses that they forget the bigger reason why they went into business in the first place. Making money, working less hours, or having freedom to come and go as you please, are not reasons that will inspire and motivate a team to go above and beyond what they have done before. So how do you make the transition from craft to enterprise, from being only self-employed to being an entrepreneur?
In order to build an enterprise, your business must be driven by a promise that is bigger than you. A promise is a simple yet powerful reason for being in business. Through your promise you commit to building an enterprise that has a powerful purpose and can function without you. A big promise inspires your team to reach the summit of extreme business success. The bigger the promise is, the bigger the business will become.
Creating your promise
Your promise cannot be about what products you sell or how much money you want to make. It must be a powerful statement of intent that inspires your team, enabling them to see that they are making a difference through all that they do. This promise should be built into every part of your company, so that your enterprise is focused on delivering on its promise at all times.
This will also require that you change your mind-set, recognising that you have been operating as a craft and that you want to make that shift. As an example, watch your language – instead of saying ‘my business,’ say ‘the business I work for.’ These subtle changes in focus will support you to direct your energy towards building an enterprise.
My favourite example of a powerful promise is that of Disney: creating magic. They have managed to integrate the magic of Disney into every aspect of their company, for both customers and employees alike. It has resulted in an enterprise that has grown far beyond the personality and skills of its founder.
While challenging yourself and your business on your promise can raise some big questions as to why you are really in business at all, once you have defined your promise, keep asking yourself the most important question: is my promise big enough?