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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Want to Start a Business? Are You Santa or an Elf?

Written By: Catherine Morgan | 8 Comments

Note from Catherine: In this season of great joy and mass marketing, it seemed to make sense to publish an excerpt from Carol’s bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. This short section really stuck with me when I read it, and given the Santa and elf references, it seemed timely. Enjoy!

Are You Santa or an Elf?

I had one particular friend that desperately wanted to start her own business a few years ago. I was baffled when she told me this because in her previous jobs she had always complained when there was a lack of direction. When she was told what to do, this woman was a superstar. She was unstoppable. She could do anything and do it well. However, if you didn’t tell her what to do, then she did virtually nothing. She didn’t have the innate drive to “pick up the ball and run with it” unless someone specifically told her to do so.

Fortunately, after a few conversations covering this issue, she acknowledged that she did better work when she had specific guidance and decided against the entrepreneurial route (and is now in a fantastic job where she has been promoted twice).

Basically, you can’t run a business when you are waiting for directions. There is no goddess of entrepreneurism that will appear in a vision or pop out of the cash register and give you guidance and suggested next steps. Not only is it up to you as an entrepreneur to set the direction, strategy and work process for yourself, but you need to do that for every person in your organization. If you are a doer, not only will this task be daunting, it will be nearly impossible.

Core competencies are all about maximizing what you are best at—your innate skills and the areas in which you shine. If you are going to leave your comfort zone and try something new that is not aligned with your competencies, you may not want to test it out by starting a new business, where you have thousands of your own dollars on the line.

Assessing Your Strengths in Terms of Role

Write down the answers to the following questions:

1. When you interact in groups, what role do you typically play (and like to play)? The leader? The heavy lifter? The free rider?

2. Have you managed groups of people before now? If yes, what did you like and dislike about the managerial role?

3. How would you feel about managing employees, customers, and/or the direction of an organization?

4. Do you like to take on responsibility? Why or why not?

5. Do you like to take the ball and run with it or prefer to wait to be given specific instructions to follow?

6. Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on details?

If you aren’t sure about any of the above, ask some friends or colleagues to give you some feedback (make sure these people are “spinach in your teeth” people and not smoke-blowers).

Review your answers and write down next to each whether that preference or strength is more consistent with being a “Santa” or an “elf.”

If you are trending more toward elfdom, you will want to avoid running a business, which puts you squarely in the Santa position. Instead, con­sider taking your entrepreneurial spirit and put it toward your work in someone else’s organization.

So who are you? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Article written by
Catherine Morgan is the editor of Business Unplugged ™, an engaging speaker, and the founder of Point A to Point B Transitions Inc., a virtual provider of coaching services to individuals who are in business or career transition. Catherine is the author of the eBook Re-Launch You: Discovering Your Point B and Embracing Possibility. An experienced independent consultant and former employee of three of the former Big Five consulting firms, Catherine combines strategy development with accountability coaching. Her productivity tips and career transition advice have been featured on WGN AM 720 and WIND AM 560 The Answer in Chicago, and on WCHE AM 1520 in the Philadelphia area. Catherine speaks frequently on topics related to productivity, career transition, small business, and entrepreneurship. She doesn’t take herself seriously, but takes her subject matter very seriously.