Are you a Hero, Headliner or Builder?

Entrepreneurs and business owners come in all shapes and sizes…they have different backgrounds, different aspirations and they work in all sorts of industries and spaces.

Despite all of those differences, they really start to look similar when it comes to how they act and think.  Simplistically business owners come in 1 of 3 different types…and it’s that type, a set of traits, that determines what kind of success they’ll have in the long run.  If you don’t know your type, it’s likely you’re unconsciously sabotaging your chances at long term success.

The good news is these traits can be identified and changed (with effort) over time so they match up with where you want to be long term.  The first step is to identify where you are now.  To get you started, here are the three archetypes that I commonly see in business owners.

Are you a Hero, Headliner or Builder?

The Hero

Most business owners start out as heroes…the hero’s mindset and approach is natural for starting up and gives you the best chance of early success.  However continuing to play the hero after the first year or so in your business is a sure path to failure (see: 5 Reasons why being a Hero is killing your business).

A hero…in business owner terms…is always on the front lines and is involved with every single important activity in your business.  A hero may have employees, but those employees aren’t actually allowed to do any of the heavy lifting – all decisions go through the owner.  And when there’s an issue, a fire to fight, the hero will drop everything and take charge of the problem.

How to tell if you’re a Hero:

The Hero is typically a slave to the business, works long hours, rarely takes time off and is constantly waiting for the big break.  Real success is always ‘just around the corner’…one big client away from happening.  A quick test for you – If you don’t have an up to date organizational accountability chart (actually on paper…not just in your head) that clearly shows others owning key activities…then you’re playing The Hero.

Prognosis for The Hero:

A hero’s success and longevity is tied to how much personal energy and drive they have…and the number of hours in a day.  The hero isn’t necessarily directly trading time for money, but there’s not a lot of leverage there either.  Typically they’ll grow the business to the point where they are working 110% of their time and then they’re stuck.  There are no more hours in the day and at some point they’ll be unable to keep up a 60, 70, 80 hours a week pace and they’ll shut things down.

In case it’s not clear…playing The Hero is a dead end for a business owner.

The Headliner

The Headliner is a variation of the Hero…but one that has a chance of a specific kind of long term success.  Like the Hero, the Headliner is the central point of their business…all key activities and decisions pass through the Headliner.  However the Headliner is also the reason for the success of the business.  The Headliner has a reputation as an expert or a top line performer and can do things that most others can’t do.

Most writers, artists and professional speakers are Headliners – they are their business.  They may have some kind of employee help, assistants, accountants, etc., but for all practical purposes it’s just them.  However Headliners can also be lawyers, plumbers, coaches, consultants…pretty much anyone who stands out as an ‘expert’ in their field.

Prognosis for The Headliner:

For those Headliners who have found a profitable niche where people will pay a lot for their skills, being a Headliner can be a great business…albeit more of a lifestyle choice.  The Headliner is primarily trading time for money – although that hourly rate can often be pretty phenomenal.  If your goal is to make up to 6 figures, control your own destiny and not mess around with building an organization or managing people, then being a Headliner is a good choice.

The downside is that there is rarely anything to sell if you decide to wrap up your business and you’re always ‘on’.  If you ever hit an extended downturn (sick for 6 months, break a leg, etc.) then you won’t be making any money and it may be difficult to ramp things back up to where they were.

The Builder

The last (and most difficult) business owner type is the Builder.  As you might expect from the name, Builders are all about building their business…ultimately with the goal that it runs without them.  A successful Builder could take 3 or 4 months off and their business would continue functioning…and actually would grow in their absence.

Builders spend their time and efforts creating a business model that’s scalable.  They invest in creating a leadership team empowered to make big decisions and handle issues (without input from the business owner).  The owner’s primary role (beyond creating and leading the leadership team) is strategically improving the business…finding ways to drive more revenue and profits and identify areas of weakness.

Prognosis for The Builder:

When you’re just starting a business, as the owner you will have to do most of things on your own (much like the Hero).  However unlike the Hero who just throws themselves at issues, the Builder is constantly looking for opportunities to streamline, automate and delegate…and as soon as the revenue allows it, they hire and start delegating authority.

Because the outcome of a successful Builder is a business that runs without day to day input from ownership, that business becomes a very valuable commodity that can be sold.  Alternatively, the owner can hang out indefinitely doing the parts of the business they enjoy because the business has been successfully designed to support them without requiring constant sacrifices.

It’s tough to be a builder, but the rewards are huge.  Having said that, most business owners I talk to operate more like the Hero rather than the Builder.  Where do you fall on the spectrum?  Have you thought about it?  What would it take for you to start being a Builder?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach