By Guest Blogger Tony Oliver, Penny Wise Consulting Group
This blog post first appeared on the Penny Wise Consulting Group’s blog and was posted here with permission. The original post can be found here.
If you run a business, you are faced with a daily choice: Whether to be a chicken or an egg. Vegans may find the analogy hard to digest, but here are the core elements:
- Businesses start as eggs—that is, they start small
- They can seek advice or guidance, be nurtured, and learn—in essence, they can grow up to be chickens
- Or they can choose to do it on their own and not procure outside advice—that is perfectly fine, as long as they are comfortable remaining as eggs
While both scenarios can result in good meals (or service/product), one carries a higher rate of success.
The Case for Eggs
Congratulations! You are finally an entrepreneur, after years of dreaming about becoming one. You have identified a good market niche and look toward a successful career as your own boss. Recognizing the trade-off is essential, though.
Be careful not to let the zest for independence blind you from other viewpoints, or your pride from asking for advice. You will not have all the answers. If you do, then it is time to ask some new questions. Smart leaders allow other minds to help fertilize theirs and contribute to growth.
Note this does not mean “doing what everyone else does.” Often, businesses make a conscious choice to take a sliver of the market, rather than approach the prospective customer base with the gluttony seen at a Vegas buffet.
Take In-n-Out Burger. The California icon has chosen to defy conventional fast-food wisdom: Limited menu, no breakfast menu, no frozen items in their kitchen. This does not mean they have chosen to be the “egg.” While they followed their gut on those choices, they also listened to business advice on proper locations and customer service tenets.
The Case for Chickens
Other companies may take a different tack by seeking advice and guidance. The nurturing may come in many forms:
- A management philosophy grounded on training and growing employees, rather than having authority without responsibilities
- Founders and executives who seek mentors from other industries
- Boards that are diverse: Insiders and outsiders, plus a mix of age, experience, and gender
- A willingness to constantly improve and look for inspiration, best practices, and even benchmarking examples from other industries
As a business owner, you will choose which path to take, as both can lead to tasty “meals.” You may not be seeking to create a business empire by hiring thousands of people, franchising your idea, or achieving a multi-million dollar valuation, but that does not mean you want to remain an “egg.”
Becoming a “chicken” is tied to your goals. Perhaps you want to create a business to employ your family, allow you to only work 30 hours, or even employ disadvantaged people. A lot of large, stagnating companies which grew from egg to chicken now may find themselves regressing to “egg” by abandoning the bullet points above mentioned.
What about you? How do you decide when to be the chicken or the egg when starting your own business?
About the Author: Tony Oliver is a project manager by trade, a marketing guru by profession, and a lifelong learner from birth. His best trait is an inquisitive mind, which drives his desire to understand not just the “what” but also the “how” and more importantly, the “why” and “why not?” Tony is experienced in supply, pricing, demand, and consumption analysis and holds an MBA in marketing from a top 20 school (UNC Chapel Hill) and an undergraduate English Literature degree from Georgetown University. With 15+ years of experience with Intel and Cisco, Tony is fully bilingual (English, Spanish) with a working knowledge of French, as well as a seasoned public speaker and instructor of Project Management and Presentation Skills courses.