I was having lunch with my friend Steve Owsinski of Igadea today. We were talking about networking and he mentioned that a lot of their clients were also friends. In fact, the clients are more likely to say “Let’s talk with Steve about our Web site” rather than “Let’s go to Igadea”. I’ve been thinking about that dynamic ever since and to tell the truth, while I’m pretty sure that’s a desirable thing, I can also see some downsides. I would love to hear your perspective.
On the good side: Obviously, if your clients are coming to you, then you have effectively established yourself as an expert in their minds. They see you as trustworthy and as the only one they want to talk to. They also will tend to be great ambassadors for you. They will be telling all their friends that they need to talk with “Steve” because he is the expert. Especially for those of us who are one-person shops, this is a goal to shoot for. We want people to come to us. Also, if you are someone else’s employee, then this makes you very hard to fire. Again, not a bad situation to be in.
On the less good side: If you have the dream of growing your business beyond yourself someday, then you need to find a way of transferring your personal reputation into the company. You want people thinking that “ABC, Inc” (the company you built) are the people to talk with, because they are the experts. If you are perceived as the only expert at ABC, then as soon as you retire to enjoy the fruits of creating the business, the business will begin to fail, because the “expert” isn’t there anymore. Even if you don’t intend to sell your business, if the perception is that you are the only one who can get the job done, it may be difficult to get your clients to accept your employees, even if you trained them yourself, as anything other than second-best.
Maybe I’m just creating a tempest in a teapot here. Has anyone had experience with growing their business beyond themselves or having challenges doing so because of the perception that they are the brains behind the business?