An Organizational Model For The 21st-Century Entrepreneur

Dan Sullivan

When I started out as an entrepreneur in the 1970s, it was hard to be out there. There was no precedent for what I was doing, so a lot of people I encountered either didn’t understand it or didn’t take it seriously. Producing my own diagrams, forms, and packaging was a slow and costly process. People would ask me, “Why on Earth are you doing this?”

Behind their question was a bigger one: “You’re giving up the magnifying power of working inside a large organization — for what?

Their confusion was based on sound reasoning. For most of the 20th century, and going back into the 19th century, lifetime employment in a large organization was the only way you could really hope to advance yourself. It was the greatest multiplier available to human beings. An individual couldn’t multiply themselves, but within that structure, they became a part of something much larger, and it would multiply them.

In the 1970s, however, some of us had this inkling there might be another way to do it, and it was in the form of what I call “self-empowering technologies.” The personal computer is one of them, but that didn’t arrive until the 1980s. What I’m talking about is much more fundamental

I’ve just made a diagram that encapsulates everything I’ve been working on since that time. It features four concentric circles:

  • In the center is “You.”
  • Around that is a circle called “Tools.”
  • The third circle is “Teamwork.”
  • The fourth, outside circle is “Technology.”

I believe that this is the organizational model for entrepreneurs — or anyone — living in the 21st century.

For nearly four decades, Strategic Coach has been developing thinking tools to help entrepreneurs get phenomenal clarity about key questions in their business and their life—questions like:

  • “Who are you?”
  • “What kind of results do you want to see?”
  • “How do you want the world to be?”
  • “How do you want to be supported by the world?”

Once you have this understanding, you can align yourself with an ever-expanding team of people with Unique Abilities that complement yours. Then, there’s a natural tendency to connect with technologies that will multiply what you’ve created.

Every entrepreneurial challenge comes back to this. If the person at the middle of this structure isn’t clear about these things, their confusion radiates outward, creating complexities in their thinking, their teamwork, and their organization’s effectiveness in the world.

Becoming an entrepreneur in the 70s was a big risk: You were giving up the multipliers of a large organization, where your reputation, your income, and your security could all be multiplied. Starting in 1980, with the advent of the personal computer, then the subsequent proliferation of self-empowering tools, being an entrepreneur suddenly started to seem like a more attractive possibility.

Fast-forward to today: Entrust your whole future to a large institution? What a risk! But if you have a laptop, you have a doorway to millions of technologies to multiply yourself. And I believe there’s a natural progression toward an entrepreneurial attitude and lifestyle today, because people understand and want the multipliers that come with them.

But there has to be something present at the core to multiply. Behind every lasting example of entrepreneurial growth and success is an individual who’s operating with absolute clarity. If your business isn’t working or is out of balance at any level, this four-circle structure is the blueprint for the solution.

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