Finders. Minders. And Binders.

September 25th, 2013

ID-100170525Risk in the early years does not seem like risk at all! When I started my business and a customer sent over a contract to review I did not have the army of lawyers and professional service folks that are around to protect me today. The contract came in, I printed it off, read all 83 pages, learned as much as I could and then I signed it. Why? Most of that stuff isn’t going to happen anyway, right? Well, even though it was true, I signed it because making something happen in the business was a much better outcome than the alternative—watching lawyers markup and edit a document over and over again. The risk of signing a bad contract was lesser than the gain of working with a new customer, testing out our service line, gaining the revenues, cash flow, references, and the experiences that the contract provided.

This concept plays out across your entire business. My first employee was hired with a verbal acceptance. They worked for me for years and they had no offer letter—imagine that! We got along fine without a handbook. Everything was understood. We just stood and talked across the office. The purpose for the company was simple and clear.

Accounting was just as simple. We paid bills, invoiced customers, and made sure that there was enough money in the bank to do payroll. Then someone comes in to lead accounting and they want to build a budget like their last job in Corporate America. The budget process starts in the Fall, finishes by the New Year, and becomes outdated by February. Small business moves too fast and changes too much for a traditional budgeting process.

A business can expect to see this in all facets of the organization. The “little company that could” designs a marketing campaign and tries it without upsetting corporate. As the business grows, it eventually has a team whose job it is to keep that spirit and make marketing better. Staff members who often want to just go and fix things now have to remember who does what.  And in the process they often ask the question, “Why are we organized this way? It just slows us down…”

Years ago I heard a famous entrepreneur, the founder of Hercules, answer that question with a compelling speech about business and entrepreneurship. He shared that there are three types of people in business: finders, minders, 110819-Gulliksen-Slide3and binders. “Finders” start the business and figure out their market and their customer. They turn themselves and the business “outward” (Outside-In® in my world) and they focus on growth and winning. But as the business grows and gets more and more complex it requires different skills and expertise to keep advancing. Enter the “minders.” Minders are the functional talents that come in across the business to do a better job of keeping track of the company. Important and necessary. They are minding the store so to speak and helping create the scorecard of success.

And finally there are the “binders.” If you’re an entrepreneur this is where you exit perhaps. Binders are like the son who tells his Dad (a successful sandwich shop owner) to stop giving away free chips and pickles and to reduce his portion sizes because these are recessionary times. Of course the Dad listens and soon enough business is way down. The son was wrong! The binder ended up screwing up the secret sauce/brand promise of the sandwich shop. And a good business is withered away by the strain and scrutiny.

All three dynamics are contributing factors to the development of business. A finder’s role is to build the early business. Know when to bring in enough minders to keep the business orderly. Avoid the binder influence and phase of the business. Or know how to exit when the business achieves that level of “success.”

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