By Rieva Lesonsky
Despite how they’re often treated, entrepreneurs are not a monolith. Instead, they’re driven by various motivations and approach business differently. This is illustrated by the annual Small Business Growth Trends report from Keap, which reveals four unique types of small business owners. To get more insight into these entrepreneurial types, I talked to Clate Mask, the CEO of Keap.
Rieva Lesonsky: What were the unique types of business owners identified in your Small Business Growth Trends report?
Clate Mask: Our survey found that entrepreneurs fall into four different segments:
Overwhelmed (28%): These entrepreneurs struggle to manage and grow their businesses and worry about their ability to succeed.
Gratified (26%): Gratified small business owners genuinely enjoy working in their businesses. They feel successful and believe they can handle whatever challenges come their way.
Growth-Focused (25%): This group has achieved a certain level of success and is hungry for more, focusing primarily on growing revenues, increasing profits, and bringing in more clients.
Connected (22%): Connected entrepreneurs wear their small business pride like a badge of honor. They’re deeply committed to their clients and emotionally invested in their businesses.
Lesonsky: Why do you think so many business owners feel overwhelmed?
Mask: Entrepreneurial overwhelm is nothing new; we’re just acknowledging and discussing it more today. The reality is business owners wear all the hats in their companies—set the vision, manage the team, coordinate with vendors, execute tasks, take meetings, respond to customers, answer for all mistakes, and more. They might have a partner or support staff, but the buck always stops with the owner.
The mountain of tasks they’re responsible for puts enormous pressure on them. They rarely have enough time to handle all the company’s needs and never can get around to their wants. When you think about it, it’s actually a wonder that any small business owner doesn’t feel overwhelmed.
Lesonsky: How can overwhelmed small business owners gain more control?
Mask: Investing in systems is critical for small business success and entrepreneurial sanity, and also why we started Keap many years ago. Systems—more specifically, automation—can change everything. Business owners can regain control of their schedules by investing in automation tools for sales and marketing, scheduling, e-commerce, reporting, and more. Plus, they gain the peace of mind that comes with knowing nothing important is falling through the cracks.
Lesonsky: I was surprised only 22% say they’re committed to being deeply connected to their clients and businesses. Why do you think that is?
Mask: Again, this just comes back to the available hours in the day. I think if you asked every small business owner which of these entrepreneurial types they’d like to be, they’d all aspire to be “Connected,” maybe in conjunction with “Gratified” and “Growth-Focused.” But, connecting with your clients takes time, which most entrepreneurs don’t have a lot of. They’re operating in survival mode.
Lesonsky: How important is it for small business owners to pursue growth-focused initiatives?
Mask: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” This maxim is not only true for people but also businesses. Even if your revenue is steady, factors like inflation, increased competition, and lifestyle changes can push your spending up. So if you’re not actively pursuing growth in your company, odds are you’re actually losing revenue—or setting the stage to do so.
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Lesonsky: But if most entrepreneurs are in survival mode, how can they focus on growth?
Mask: There’s no choice—they have to. Prioritizing growth-focused initiatives is a key part of surviving while failing to do so often leads to the shuttering of so many small businesses. So, make sure you take the time to nurture leads, follow up with customers, upsell when possible, and regularly find new customers.
Lesonsky: Any tips for how entrepreneurs can get to the “gratified” stage and genuinely enjoy working in their businesses?
Mask: I’m really passionate about the topic of work/life balance, probably because so much of my early time as an entrepreneur was spent getting the equation all wrong. With the benefit of hindsight and tools to support me, I now truly enjoy working in my business.
I have four secrets to success in this area. Numbers one and two go hand-in-hand: automation and delegation. These two practices get anything off your plate that shouldn’t be there. So even if you think every client quote or phone call needs your Midas touch, you’re better off focusing on your core strengths and leaving your team or your technology to handle the rest.
The third trick to enjoying working in your business is not working around the clock. Yes, you have too many tasks and not enough time. But sacrificing sleep and well-being will only cause you to self-destruct.
Remember that embracing automation and delegation will free up more time for you. Use that time to handle what needs to be done in your business and then the remaining time to unplug, be with loved ones, focus on your physical and mental health, etc. You will only enjoy working in your business when you’ve learned to set boundaries, so it doesn’t consume your entire life.
The fourth secret is getting a business coach. I could beat this drum all day long, but trust me when I say that having a qualified coach who can challenge you, guide you, hold you accountable, and strengthen you where you’re weak can catapult you—and your company—into the stratosphere.
About the Author
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media and SmallBusinessCurrents.com and has been covering small businesses and entrepreneurship for over 30 years. Get more insights about business trends by signing up for her free Currents newsletter.