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 Why one-man operations remain one-man operations forever 
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Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2008 4:21 pm
Posts: 14
Location: Cape Town
Post Why one-man operations remain one-man operations forever
Most small businesses remain small because they are one-man operations. However, there are exceptions: some one-man operations get quite big, with various people working there, and on the other hand, some small businesses are by no means one-man operations. But wait, let’s just stop there for now, because I know you think I’m contradicting myself. How can a small business not be a one-man operation, and how can a one-man operation have a number of people working for it? Of course it’s possible for a number of people to work for a one-man operation, and in reality, that’s always the case. Think of the butchery or doctor in town. The owner isn’t the only person who works there, but it’s still seen as a one-man business.

Why is it called a one-man business then?

There is only one man who makes all the plans, accepts all the responsibility, provides all the sureties, has all the knowledge, and so on. These aspects do play a role in determining whether it’s a one-man operation or not, but to me it’s actually about the mindset of the owner instead. If he has a one-man operation mindset, then as far as I’m concerned it’s a one-man operation, regardless of how big or small the business is.

Not all one-man operations remain small, but most do, because it takes an exceptional person to make a huge business out of a one-man operation. As far as I’m concerned, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is the most successful one-man business in the world. Have you ever wondered what will become of Virgin when Sir Richard is no longer there one day? I’m sure they’ve thought about it a lot already and have their plans in place, but I’m just wondering.

Few of us are in Sir Richard’s class though, and I think most one-man operations come to an end when the founder/owner dies or is no longer around. I’ve seen the evidence of this when businesses like this get sold. Many of them collapse shortly afterwards. I even saw it happen with a successful business that I sold years ago. It could not continue to exist without my skills. I learnt a lot through that and started making sure that my other businesses would be able to continue without me. How does one do this?

Duplicate yourself. Appoint people who can do the work as well as or better than you can. This sounds easy, but for most one-man business operators it’s the hardest thing on earth. It’s easy to make the decision, and you know you have to, but it’s not going to work if you don’t get rid of your one-man operation mindset.

As long as your mindset is not right, you’ll take one step forward and appoint people to do the work and then the first time that they get stuck you’ll take the work back again. So the person you’ve appointed is not being utilised, but is still getting paid. This means that you’re still doing all the work, but you now also have a paid spectator. So you’ve taken a few steps backwards, because the business is in a worse position than before. Your staff numbers are growing and the value of your business is decreasing.

Get your mindset right and accept that other people cannot do things as well as you can, but that there is no other option than to push through; or else make peace with the fact that you will have to work until you die and are doomed to eternal mediocrity.

By the way, no investor will invest in a one-man operation. Investors invest only in businesses that can operate successfully without their founder. That is value

Johan Van Schalkwyk
Cell : 084 400 5927
Fax : 086 604 4370
Skype: johan0633

Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:12 pm
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Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2011 8:42 am
Posts: 4
Location: Centurion
Post Re: Why one-man operations remain one-man operations forever
Just for interest sake : Richard Branson is not a one man business. All his businesses are major corporations and he is in most instances just the chairman of the board or just the majority shareholder. The difference between a one man business is that it is actually just a craft , not a business. Serious businesses are run as Enterprises properly structured as companies ( or in SA sometimes as a CC) with shareholders , Directors and management each with its proper role and preferably not the same persons. No business will grow to something worthwhile if this structure is not in place.

Wed Apr 06, 2011 3:06 pm
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