Are You An Entrepreneur First, Or Specialist First?

The Strategic Coach Team

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How To Recognize That You’re An Entrepreneur with Allison Hawkins

How you define yourself as a business owner is an important factor in your success.

The successful entrepreneurs who come to Strategic Coach to become even better entrepreneurs have created their success in a wide, wide range of industries, but the one thing that unifies them is that they all see themselves as entrepreneurs.

This can be challenging for entrepreneurs in certain professions. In fact, many people might not even think of them as entrepreneurs—including these business owners themselves. They are the entrepreneurs with a specialty, including professions like doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, architects, accountants, and so on.

These specialists run a business, have teams to support them, are responsible for the costs of running their business, and provide valuable services to their clients—just like every other entrepreneur—but they think of themselves in terms of their profession first and as entrepreneurs second.

So what’s the problem with that line of thinking?

A changing environment requires a shift in thinking.

Dan Sullivan believes that as a result of the growth of technology in our lives, the “specialty first” thinking will greatly limit many aspects of these entrepreneurs’ success.

As Dan says, there are software programs that can replace a lot of what these professionals do. What does that mean in terms of their personal growth and the growth of their businesses?

We find this is an interesting topic for discussion because at Strategic Coach, we don’t make any distinction between specialists and any other type of entrepreneur. But, in saying that, we also know from experience that the specialist will come to a point where, if they want to continue growing, they’ll have to define and market themselves differently.

Unless they make the shift to seeing themselves as entrepreneurs first and specialists second, they can rob themselves not only of the opportunity to achieve the kind of growth they envisioned when they set out, but, perhaps paradoxically, of experiencing truly satisfying growth in their specialty.

A natural-born entrepreneur who got stuck.

Strategic Coach client Allison Hawkins was an accountant. Now she’s an entrepreneur with a specialty in accounting. And it’s changed everything.

As a teenager, Allison created all sorts of businesses—a boat-cleaning business called Ship Shape and a jewelry-making business called Allison’s Originals were just two. A natural-born entrepreneur, she took a while to get back to her entrepreneurial roots.

After her foray into the entrepreneurial world as a teen, Allison completed her education and then hung out her shingle as a registered Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA). As she says, “When you go through that much professional training, you get a bit pigeon-holed. You think there’s only one path, and for a while, I felt lost. I felt like I had to fit in the box of what an accountant was supposed to be, but it didn’t feel right.”

New business model, new and exciting opportunities.

On the recommendation of a trusted long-time friend, Allison joined The Strategic Coach Program, where she began to see a new way to design her accounting business.

”Coach helped me to embrace the creativity and excitement I’d once felt as an entrepreneurial teenager, and gave me the courage to step out of the accounting box and into the role of an entrepreneur,” Allison explains.

“It’s helped me to create my own path and be really comfortable with that—and comfortable having other people support me in terms of the numbers piece of the accounting puzzle so I can focus on what I really want to be doing. Now I don’t have to ask myself, ‘Are you really an entrepreneur?’ I know I am.”

Today, her company, Hawkins & Co. Accounting in Windsor, Ontario, helps business owners “own their numbers” using web-based technology that provides real-time financial data. This type of data can help generate insights to make better business decisions and streamline processes, freeing up time for these entrepreneurs to plan for their business instead of being mired in the day-to-day—a valuable resource that others in Allison’s profession may not be able to offer.

First things first.

Along with specialists in other professions, Allison’s role as an entrepreneur is to give her clients confidence about their future; in her case, it’s in terms of their financial records—making sure everything is up to date, they’re not liable, there’s nothing risky about their relationship to the government tax code, and so on. That’s all part of her business, but it’s not Allison, it’s her team that makes sure everything is taken care of.


“Every entrepreneur’s role is to give their clients confidence about their future.”
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How this plays out for her is the freedom to be out in the marketplace learning what people’s problems are in terms of their finances—what’s keeping them awake at night, what worries them about their business and their personal lives. Then it’s her job to help them think about the future and the new options they have that will give them peace of mind.

You can only do that as an accountant when you recognize that first and foremost, you’re an entrepreneur with specialized knowledge that your clients don’t have but need. It’s all about you as an entrepreneur helping other people expand their future. In Allison’s and in every other specialist’s case, she first had to expand her own future before she could be in a position to help her clients expand theirs.

It’s an exciting place to be for the specialist who’s an entrepreneur at heart. Allison shares her thoughts on how her shift in thinking about her role transformed her business:

“You get very clear on what you want to achieve, what you want to provide to people, and the value you personally bring them. It gave me permission to let go of a lot of things I thought I had to do, and my team has really stepped up, which has been great for their growth.

“They see how the changes we’ve made in terms of my role have transformed their roles and my partner’s role, and this has truly transformed our business.

“When we think about the future growth of our business, really, the sky’s the limit.”

Are you a specialist? Or are you an entrepreneur? It’s worth some thought.

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