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What You Can Learn From Small Businesses’ Failure

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Deborah Smith

Have you heard that eighty percent of small businesses fail? Have you ever thought about why that is? Not the outlier reasons like so-and-so had to move back to Kansas to take care of her aunt, but the main reason small businesses fail.

I have to admit, I am a bit of a nerd, and I love reading business and entrepreneurial books to find answers to questions like this one. I was recently reading, The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber, and I had a huge light-bulb moment. The reasons he gave for small business failure directly related to our business as actors (or directors, or producers, casting directors, or whatever part of this amazing business you participate in!). Let me lay it all out for you.

According to Gerber, small businesses fail because the people who start them do not have a balance of skills and the correct mindset to be an entrepreneur. To have this balance, you need to be a combination of three different people: the technician, the manager, and the entrepreneur.

1) The Technician – Focus on the Day to Day: They are experts in their daily tasks, their trade, and their personality is summed up into the idea that if “you want it done right, do it yourself.”

2) The Manager – Lives In the Past: This personality thrives with order and systems. They resist change and often follow the way others do specific tasks.

3) The Entrepreneur – Live in the Future: This is the dreamer, the creative personality, and the inventor. This person looks at the big picture and how they can push boundaries and be a catalyst for change.

The E Myth

Looking at the above personalities, which one are you?

Here is the tough part; to truly succeed in business, you must either have the ability and the budget to hire someone of each type, or, as related to us fine folk, must embrace a bit of each type. As an entertainment professional, we want to be the small businesses that succeeds and defies all the odds.

How does this specifically relate to our industry?

Take the actor who only likes the art of the business. They abhor the making connections, the marketing, the auditioning, basically the “homework.” They may not realize it, but they are the Entrepreneur. They dream and love to create, but dislike the technical side of the business.

The actor who is looking for a solution to “making it” is the Manager. It isn’t necessarily that they are lazy (although some are), but they thrive on knowing each step will lead to very specific results. Their key admirable trait is that they are often good listeners and absorb the lessons from people before them.

Finally, the actor who focuses on what they can do today for their career without any real goals for the future is the Technician. They focus on the task at hand without any understanding of how it all fits into the big picture.

In order to succeed in business, any business, we must be a balance of all three personalities. We must have a clear vision of our future, like the Entrepreneur, a grasp of the day-to-day tasks like the Technician, and a love of systems and repeatable results like the Manager. To achieve this balance, we have to step out of our comfort zone and learn to absorb the lessons from these other personalities.

According to Gerber, in a business sense, our comfort zone is the boundary in which we feel we can control the environment and the outcomes. When we step outside the comfort zone, we begin to lose control. For the Technician, their comfort zone is related to how many tasks they can do themselves. For the Manager, it is related to knowing what tasks come next, and for the Entrepreneur it is knowing how many people can assist in their vision for the future and sharing that future goal.

The next time you are feeling pushed out of your comfort zone and overwhelmed by your tasks, think about what other personalities would do. Better yet, ask your entertainment industry friends what their key personality is and learn from their key traits. If you are feeling snowed under from the daily “homework,” step back and look at the big picture like an Entrepreneur. If you are feeling too focused on the big picture and don’t know how to achieve any results, talk to friends who are in the daily grind with you, learn from them and set up daily systems to keep you moving forward.

I found myself relating to so many different aspects of the book, and truly analyzing my own personality and how it relates to my journey as a professional actress. How does your personality affect your journey?

A closing thought from Gerber, “A mature business knows how it got to be where it is and what it must do to get where it wants to go.” Next month I will examine this idea of a mature business and look at how we can all get to where we want to go!

Ps. As always, I love comments about my articles or questions you want me to address in the future!

Deborah Lee Smith

About Deborah Lee Smith

Deborah Lee Smith is an award-winning actor, producer, and founder of “More Than You See”, a non profit organization dedicated to sharing stories and resources surrounding the daily struggles of mental health. Recent projects include “Here Awhile” starring Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect), and “Last Three Days” starring Robert Palmer Watkins (General Hospital). Deborah is also a regular contributing staff writer for the entertainment website “Ms. In The Biz”.