Do entrepreneurs need to have a ‘love of people’?
Welcome to the latest blog in my series on building a successful consulting business. In this piece, I address the topic of ‘Love of People’ – as another important consideration to weigh up if you are considering starting up your own professional service company.
‘Love of people’ may seem to some readers a pretty florid turn of phrase for a business article but I use the term with some – mildly provocative – deliberateness.
As mentioned in an earlier blog, professional services businesses are unique in that they are fundamentally based – economically and organisationally – on people. They tend to be low asset businesses; rather, their value is primarily a function of the collective relationships, skills and energies of the people within the organisation.
The positive aspect to this is that professional services businesses can be relatively easy to establish – there are ‘low barriers to entry’. Conversely, poorly managed, a firm’s intrinsic value can – quite literally – walk out the door at any given moment.
If you have a tight, well-coalesced team with a collaborative culture and high retention rates then you are clearly going to be far more successful than if your team is little more than a disparate group of contractors collected loosely together under a trading facade. Clients quickly establish one type of offering from the other and, as importantly, so will any future acquirer in your business.
Put simply, as the leader of a business where success will pivot on your ability to hire, task, motivate, develop and retain the best people you can find, you had better have a pretty deep well when it comes to a natural appetite for human interaction. I make this point because you do come across some business leaders – in the loosest sense of the term – who are clearly technically brilliant but who have very little emotional intelligence or patience when it comes to engaging with their colleagues (or, indeed, sometimes even their clients!).
I guess the point is fundamentally one about leadership. Tomes are written on this topic so I do not seek to digress along this well-worn path. Suffice to say that – at its heart – you will need to have a genuine affection for the people you work with. Not in a ‘I want to be everyone’s best pal’ type of way (as they say ‘familiarity breeds contempt’) but in an authentic sense of caring for their welfare and professional fulfillment and growth. Fakes in this department – perhaps those who are doing so because they read it in a text book once – will be sniffed out in an instant.
As I have stated before, no one is ever the finished article in this regard and you can always mitigate for some frailty in this department by ensuring others with a better ‘human touch’ are in position to create the right firm culture. The fundamental point is, however, that you will not enjoy the (professional services based) entrepreneurial path, or indeed be any good at it, if you don’t at your core genuinely relish the privileged opportunity of leading others.
The most successful professional service entrepreneurs are often not the most technically competent (they can convince others to cover these gaps for them); but they are inevitably always very adept, charismatic leaders who have a genuine passion for growing high-performing teams.
Deep down, however, you will know whether this most fundamental of aspects is for you or not. In the next blog, I will address an aspirant entrepreneur as to whether they have thought through the critical aspect of ‘The Important Others’.