The Six Levels Of The Entrepreneurial Journey

I had a heated argument with a good friend the other day. She was my MBA course mate and both of us have always dreamed of going into business. 10 years ago, we even toyed with the idea of going into the entrepreneurial journey together by buying a business. Anyway, we did not feel comfortable with the seller, so we abandoned the negotiation.

Let us go back to our argument. She was saying that I should hire more help and make use of the sharing economy to make my business bigger. This friend of mine added that as an MBA, I should know better than trying to do everything myself like the old school. I tried to reason with her on my appreciation for my freedom in doing things myself and making use of third party logistic occasionally. Unfortunately, she didn’t understand how the hell do I have “freedom” if I try to do everything myself. I admit, at this point, I gave her a “big” piece of my mind and most, unfortunately, the conversation did not end well.

Basically, a person has to go through 6 stages of awareness from an employee to a full-scale entrepreneur. Certain people managed to skip certain stages due to reasons like inheritance, a new inflow of funding, etc. But for most of us who are more conservative or “lazy”, we may need to go through all of them. I use some planetary terms to put these stages into context.

The Workers
1. Asteroids
Mostly fresh graduates in junior administrative positions and blue collar workers. People at this level often wonder how they are going to cope with their existing salary.


Image via NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.

Most of us started at this level. Remember when we were just fresh out of college? Remember when we started on our first job and the first paycheck? Those who remained at this level usually faced financial problems coping with the ever-changing economic climate. At the asteroid stage, workers are struggling to pay for their commitment like rental, transport and even their dates.

2. Moons and Supermoons
Asteroids who realize the importance of landing the leadership job will become the moons. These are the line leaders, supervisors and shift leaders. Don’t get me wrong, there are some who ended up in these positions by sheer accident. Many, especially fresh graduates manage to jump into the moon level either by their credentials or simply by chance. Now, the difference is obvious between the accidental and the motivated.

For those who become self-aware of climbing the corporate ladder, morphing into the moon is an important milestone. A shift leader who got a shot at showing her mettle in leading a team of production workers may find inspiration to further her skill in team supervision. Although she might find her income slightly lower than the normal workers after OT deduction, she knew that this is temporary. She has her sight set on personal development and she knows, she deserves better.

The team leader who continues to thrive at this level will escalate into management. The middle management. The middle managers are the functional heads like the finance manager, HR manager, business unit manager, sales manager and the marketing manager. Becoming a functional manager is the highest rung of the “moons”. We call these guys, the supermoons. Most people get quite comfortable at this level. Many refused to budge even when things get heated up quite badly for them. Instead of building on to their works, some “supermoons” got distracted playing political games and ended up achieving the least after reaching this level.

3. Planets
A supermoon who continued to thrive may get promoted to the level of a planet. The planets are the CEOs, managing directors, general managers that head not just a business unit, but a whole company.

The planets face more pressures and political upheavals as compared to the supermoons. It ain’t enough just to be good with your customers and managers, you have to groove well with your peers, the higher-ups, the board members and the “sun” (the sun is the owner, will talk about this later).

Image from space-facts.com

Most executives who reached this level are contented with the perks and rewards that came with the position. Many companies pay their CEOs well because these chefs are mandated to look after their assigned companies single-handed. They need to report to the board three or four times annually but most often than not, the board gives them a lot of free hands to run the business. A CEO should understand the market better than the board members.

A hired CEO often fall into a trap called hubris. He bosses everyone and mistakenly thinks that he has the right to do anything as he likes. The planet thought that he is the sun. Out of God’s Will, these leaders usually fall when this confusion sets in. They might even consider themselves as entrepreneurs despite using somebody else budget and resources to build the business. A joke really.

The Entrepreneurs
4. Stars
A dwarf star could be small. It may even look insignificant beside a giant planet like Saturn and Jupiter. While the Jupiters of the galaxies looked majestic, they still rely on their stars for energy.

Many people are disillusioned with the employment system. Some hated their bosses, and others felt trapped in a rat race and yet, only a handful dared to break free of the golden handcuff. Once you decide to make use of your own resources to solve a valid market problem, you morph from a planet (or moon) into a star (maybe a dim star). You step into entrepreneurship.

Under the conventional circumstances, most of us start off as a solopreneur (a single star) or a simple partnership (binary star ?). Like the star you are, your energy powers everything; sales, marketing, operation, administration, etc. Everything that relates to your startup orbit around you. Don’t get me wrong. At this stage, the single star can still make use of third-party services in accounts, email marketing, content creation, logistic or others to run his business. Or she can do it all by herself by wearing all the hats as described by De Bono.

Although the entrepreneur at this level looks like he is bogged down by a lot of works, these are times of great freedom. Former corporate warriors like me treasure being the single star. I don’t report to anyone and am not responsible for any employees’ welfare. I need not worry about absenteeism because there ain’t any workers. Every morning, I wake up at 5 am, exercise, take a light breakfast, take a nice shower, study the Gospel and finally go back to sleep again at 6:30 am. My alarm clock rings the second time at 9:30 am, then I take a shower and go for an early lunch at 11 am. I start work around 11:30 am and call it a day after completing my work. In addition, I get to take every weekend off to be with my family.

The entrepreneur doesn’t see any problem to remain in the single “star” especially when the business is profitable. In fact, he sees getting new hires as a reversal of his higher calling. However, the single star gradually witnesses a limit to the company’s potential due to the lack of support from his own reluctance to grow.

5. The Sun
At this stage, the solopreneur decides to grow more muscles in other departments. She starts to hire albeit in a conservative manner. She sees more efficiencies in having her own truck and driver as compared to making use of third party logistic.

The star slowly turns into a sun that emits energy to other planetary bodies. She or he decides to have a small team to get products and services out faster to the market. The entrepreneur must come to work on time at this level because he needs to set good examples. He needs to chip in when his worker fails to turn up for work. He might even start wondering what the hell he has got himself into with heavier workloads and bigger responsibility. At the star level, he needs only to take care of the customers, but now, he has accountability on his team as well.

6. The Solar System
After all the hard work, the sun gradually grew his team. He even has a few planets orbiting around him. Revenue grew by leaps and bounds with good people delegating jobs among themselves.

The seasoned entrepreneur may even have a few businesses built around him. He has become a sun with a few solar systems encircling him, bringing multiple revenue streams for him. This is the ultimate level that a business owner could ever ask for in his journey. The hard work has paid off and he regains his freedom again.

Bear in mind, not everyone will go through all the stages according to above. Some might skip all levels; going from asteroid straight to the sun like during the dot com era. But the view from the full journey is better.

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