Running a small business is one of the toughest things you will do in your life. Strapped for cash, you probably don’t have the funds to hire the best talent or utilize the latest technologies to help you scale.
We have all been there. It’s a situation in which you can envision both high-level strategy and its individual parts through functional decomposition. The problem lies in your capacity to do these tasks in a timely or efficient manner. Because you are strapped for cash, you simply cannot increase the quantity and quality of inputs. Eventually, all entrepreneurs add more from the only factor under their control: their own time.
This usually leads to horrible results.
Speculative Case Study: CurryFlow.com
Let’s say you own a website. I will take a real-life example to guide us through. Your website, CurryFlow.com aggregates quality content as well as original blogs on food, travel, and pop culture.
You know what the website requires: at least ten new engaging blog posts published every week. You don’t require New York Times standard research – just fairly simple content that makes people go back for more once or twice a week.
If everything ends well, you will be earning revenue through Google Adsense and the Audience Network. Your major earnings, however, will be through endorsements.
You’re handling the business side, content management, SEO, social media, and pretty much everything else with the help of 2-3 part-time gig workers.
In other words, you’re competing against major news magazines in your niche that employs 20-30 subject matter experts on average.
As the business owner, you know what you require to scale. It’s not a lot. But you just don’t have the resources.
The Producer – Performer Partnership
Your business might be completely different from the one posited above. You could be running a small SaaS company, a local restaurant chain, a real estate service provider or even a laundromat.
However, if you could somehow relate to the scenario above by translating it to your own situation, chances are that you are a producer.
And the solution to your problems could lie in partnering up with a proven performer.
We borrow these terms from John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen’s seminal work ‘The Self-made Billionaire Effect: How Extreme Producers Create Massive Value‘. The book studies the characteristics, habits and business skills that differentiate billionaires from the normal folk.
How does this relate to you? Sure, you probably don’t have your feet on a future unicorn – but you could benefit from the book’s most crucial advice: ‘partner up with a performer’.
Are You A Producer?
Before I go any deeper, it is crucial that you take an honest assessment of yourself. The billion-dollar question is: Am I, ________, a Producer?
There are few indicators that can help you answer that question.
- Have you always considered yourself to be a leader rather than a follower? Are you good at creating goals and leading people toward them?
- Do other people lean toward you for advice? Do people outside your authority consider you a leader?
- Are you able to keep an eye overall functions of your running business? This includes finance, marketing, sales, and production. Note that a producer may be an expert within a particular function, but he/she truly excels when in charge of the whole ship.
- Do you easily imagine your business within the structures and markets in which your business operates? Are you able to identify broad market trends, such as when to be patient and when to go all out?
- Do you see opportunities that others don’t? Do you have an unorthodox approach towards risk?
- Do you consider not acting on a growth opportunity as a bigger risk than failing?
If you answered yes to all the questions above, you are very much a producer.
What is a Performer after all?
A performer is any highly effective professional with expertise and a proven track record in one (or at maximum, two) functional domains. Before going into further detail, let’s look at some famous Producer-Performer pairs.
Business is not the only arena in which we show Producer – Partner relationships however. Let’s think of sports. Jordan and Pippen. Politics? How about Obama and Biden? In essence, the U.S. President is a producer who has at his service several performers, including the Secretary of State, Attorney-General and others.
Now that you have visual components to refer back to, let’s define what a performer is and does.
- A performer is an expert with proven record in one domain of business.
- They are excellent at going into details that the Producer may have missed out on.
- They spot indicators and problems that require subject-matter experience and expertise.
- They provide stability by performing their duties responsibly and with authority.
A performer should be able to appreciate what a Producer brings to the table. A good performer understands their own strengths and weaknesses. In other words, he/she does not devalue a producer’s ability to see, imagine and work on ideas that are not immediately visible.
You know that Finance Manager who is always scrutinizing marketing spend without heed to context or growth? They are not a performer that you would want to team up with.
Finding a Performer For Your Business
Finding a performer can take years, but if you play your cards right, you will not miss out on the opportunity when you see one.
Remember, a Producer-Performer come together to form partnerships. This is not a boss-employee relationship. You want your performers to have stakes, and where possible, equal ones.
A good duo one that fills in the others weaknesses. Are you bad at meeting deadlines? A punctual, high-achieving performer could get you on track. Does your partner lack the initiative to take risks on new products? Your producer attributes are exactly what the business needs to balance his low risk attitude.
So how do you find a performer after all? Although the generic criteria remains the same for all businesses, it does help knowing the sector and individual circumstances to know what Performer your business needs.
To help you develop the right mindset towards identifying your performer partner, let’s take at another speculative case study.
Speculative Case Study: George’s Greek Village
Let’s say you are the owner of George’s Greek Village, a restaurant known for it’s zesty Mediterranean offerings. Now let’s play around with some of the variables.
In Scenario A, you operated a small local marketing agency for most of your life. You have loved to cook at home throughout your whole life but never worked in a commercial kitchen. Five years ago, you invested all of your life savings in this new restaurant.
In Scenario B, you worked as a Chef at a Michelin star restaurant for 8 years before going to Spain to learn interior designing. You came back to your hometown and started this restaurant just a few months ago.
This is a lesson we repeat several times throughout this site: context is everything. We are sure you have had business gurus guide you with the broad strokes of the inspirational paintbrush. But out there in the real world, understanding and figuring in context is key to making things work. This includes on setting a criteria on how to select an ideal performer partner.
In this situation, your ideal Performer Partner will be a chef known for their ability to handle the intricacies of running a commercial kitchen as well as the expertise required to develop a delicious menu keeping in view your philosophy. This person would have plenty of experience in procurement and the local food supply chain. This will allow you to turn the knobs in the kitchen when required while largely focusing on branding, marketing, and philosophy behind the food.
In this scenario, you require someone who has a strong track record running a restaurant or similar business. They must be great in accounting, human resource and supply chain management. If they have an experience working with digital marketing agencies in a similar setting, they are a keeper. Most importantly, this person must love your food and trust your philosophy behind the brand.
Although your experience and skills differ, it is important to note that in both scenarios, it is largely your vision that drives the restaurant. The goal is not to make you the hero of the story. The goal is to match your drive, energy, vision and ambition with someone who brings consistency, composure, and subject-matter expertise in one or two areas that are crucial to your business operations.
Putting It Into Practice
In ‘The Self-made Billionaire Effect: How Extreme Producers Create Massive Value‘, John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen state that businesses should stop thinking of work in terms of individuals or teams. The most successful combination, they argue, is the Producer – Performer partnership.
For all the brilliance and fire inside Apple’s Steve Jobs, it would be tough to imagine just how far Apple would have gone without Steve Wozniak’s brilliant chip design.
Steve Jobs became a cultural and business icon. Steve Wozniak is widely respected in the computer science and engineering circles, but virtually unknown by name to most people not related to tech or business (you would be surprised).
But it’s important to note that Wozniak not only accepted this role, but was made for it.
It can be catastrophic to have two strong egos fighting it out amongst one another 24/7 and 365 days a year. In any good Producer – Performer configuration, as Sviokla and Cohen mention, it is critical that the Performer defers in situations that fall outside of his area of expertise where a holistic and innovative approach to problem analysis or opportunity identification is required. Similarly, a producer needs to defer when a Performer stands their ground on an issue or subject that falls within their domain or expertise.
Summing It Up
If you are a smaller business owner, you can easily relate to this. Whether you’re manufacturing luxury fragrances, running an online store, or a brick-and-mortar store, the lesson here holds true in each scenario. So much of your time is spent going deep into tasks outside of your expertise or skillset. You spend too much time in the details without anyone out there to steer the ship.
Producers – Performer pairs are perfect to offset this issue. They are equals who respect the others peculiar qualities and skillsets. They accept and appreciate the yin from the yang.
Are you a Producer? Share this article with a Performer you would love to team up with.