Are you a Meddler or an Enabler?18 Sep 2013
Alex Evans asks if unemployable entrepreneurs are qualified to be employers
Addressing over 1,000 entrepreneurs at Accelerate 2013 in June, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said he was “completely unemployable”. Some of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs have either boasted or admitted that they are also unemployable. These dynamic, driven, visionary, risk-taking, mavericks need the freedom to make the decisions that determine success or failure – but who wants to work for someone that’s never worked for someone?
While their passion, energy and enthusiasm is contagious, they expect the same 24 / 7 / 365 commitment from their employees that they expect from themselves – but few are prepared to share equity.
Back in June, we highlighted research from Official Research Partner Cranfield School of Management on different styles of leadership based on coaching of over 1,500 UK businesses that have come through its Business Growth & Development Programme (BGP). It identified the ‘Hero’ type who seems to excel because they are the only person who really understands management policies, and the ‘Meddler’ type, who can't let go of routine tasks and regularly disempower staff.
While many of these entrepreneurs run profitable businesses, and may even win awards for growth, they are unlikely to win National Business Awards.
What distinguished those shortlisted for this year’s Smith & Williamson Entrepreneur of the Year award was the ‘Strategist’ role they have adopted – described by Cranfield as those who ‘give their managers the tools to do the job whilst they plan for the future’. “In our experience the majority of owner-managers are characterised as Artisans, Heroes or Meddlers, with only a small proportion naturally achieving the ideal Strategist role,” explains Professor Andrew Burke of Cranfield. “Becoming a Strategist is necessary for leaders to outline a vision in order to grow the business and effectively motivate employees.”
The most impressive entrepreneurs recognised across the programme can be described as ‘Enablers’ of leadership and effective management. They not only empower their staff to make timely decisions but many have put shared equity schemes in place so employees feel more accountable for success or failure.
These exemplary entrepreneurs demonstrate a maturity of approach, understanding the value of talent and how to release its potential. James Caan, the serial entrepreneur, investor and former BBC Dragon, has been shortlisted for his private equity venture Hamilton Bradshaw. In his new show for CNBC, The Business Class, Caan will be imparting some of the lessons learned working with an eclectic mix of entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses. “My experience in recruitment has taught me the importance of understanding the personal goals and ambitions of people and incentivising them accordingly,” he says. “This is the perfect recipe for optimal performance – engaging with staff on all levels and finding what makes them tick."
David Spencer-Percival has achieved phenomenal growth with his second venture – the specialist energy industry recruiter Spencer Ogden. He attributes this success to the workforce and culture he has invested in. "In my previous business I quickly learnt the value of a graduate workforce, and have ensured that graduates make up a large proportion of the Spencer Ogden staff,” he explains. “They are eager to learn and enjoy working for brands that fit with their cultural and moral ideals, as opposed to those that simply offer high pay packets. This sets them apart from their previous generation.”
Entrepreneurs are initiators, creators, disruptors and pioneers but they also need to be good leaders, managers, enablers and strategists to build businesses that can sustain growth.
Alex Evans is Programme Director of the National Business Awards. For queries related to judging, award categories or any aspect of the programme, email firstname.lastname@example.org.