Every-body is Replaceable.
I put in a lot of thought as to what Mr. Legopreneur, should look like. Aferall we use on the handwritten quotes, profile pictures of our Instagram, Medium, and Yourstory, and Linkedin accounts. As a tribute to Steve Jobs ‘uniform’ I chose for him wear a black top and dark blue denim. We even when with the classic lego man with the simple smile, and without any accessories.
However, one day working in my office, I let my 3 year old take him away to play with him.
Later on that day when packing up, I could not find Mr Legopreneur. Good luck asking a 3 year old where he put something, so looked for it frantically all around my attic and house.
A good 2 hours later, looking though every possible nook and cranny with the help of my other kids, we still did not manage to find it.
Easy thing to do was to buy a similar figure from the Lego Shop, however it dawned to me then that every person must be replaceable.
Its just wrong that we use that line in general, because as it is “Every person must be replaceable” it will include those in the family. And I just can’t see how parents, spouses, or children can be replaceable. I believe the purpose of a family is to “stay united” if we start seeing members as replaceable units, it may be impossible to “stay united.”
An enterprises purpose is to “serve the interest of its stake holders” and the enterprise should be created in such a way that the interests can be served even when certain units leave the eco-system.
There are 4 different sorts of units that the enterprise must be geared to replace if required.
Life happens. Co-founders that start a business or start-up are in the honey moon phase. I have seen plenty of founders that believe “we are different, we will be together for ever” takes maximum 1 year, and they become the same as countless others.
I had joined Entrepreneurship Business Book Club as a founder member. But had to step out as I had too many other things to juggle. The EBBC is still very active, and if you are constantly curious about improving yourself and your business, the energy, vibe, and knowledge that can inspire you is priceless.
They were able to withstand the knock of 2 of the 6 founders stopping, and continued their trajectory of growth. Today the EBBC has about 10 chapters in locations throughout the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany.
The founding team changed, but the vision and mission of the EBBC was so clear that those that remained had a clear North Star that they are all aligned to.
Its important to have a shared and clear North Star. Once the North Star is laid out, it will ensure clear communication about what is expected by the founders in order to stay on the trip. Having this conversation and setting the mechanism before hand will enable founders will leave amicably and with a clear process rather than with a tussle and with collateral
As the company grows, non-founders are recruited to important strategic and operational posts. I have seen larger businesses, especially family owned businesses that fail miserably when this step is taken. The new outside member increases their position within the firm so that they become unreplaceable. There are times, that once this happens, the firm starts declining. The owners of the firm are in the fallacy that but cutting or curtailing this key persons position the matter will become worse off. This may be true, but it must be explored that what if it’s not true.
Once the founders start delegating activities to the core team, they are the largest barrier of growth to the firm. Founders primary objective may be the growth of the firm, and the core team if not aligned well, their primary objective will be preservation of their job.
If this shift in mindset is properly addressed, the chances of breaking out of the valley of death has increased.
You will want your best team members to become core members at the fastest possible. Why would you keep them doing what they are currently doing so well, if they can do even more, by being faster and better? If you have the best talent within your organisation, why are you looking for outside help to grow.
Team members who are capable of doing a lot more have a ceiling imposed on their progression. This celling is not placed by themselves, but their excellence as its difficult to find someone else who is doing the same task with the same excellence.
Now imagine the same member can do a task with much higher impact and responsibility with the same excellence. Even better imagine they are now motivated to increase their excellence.
Is it fair to deprive your organisation of the difference this team member can make only because you can’t find a replacement for him?
Sounds pretty crazy, but if the member cannot be replaced by choice within 2 years, maybe you need to consider weather you need to replace them by force.
From the lean start-up methodology, it makes sense that a start-up starts off with just one customer, profiles them, and creates a solution tailored to their specific problem. However once this initial stage has been passed, some get complacent and continue working with just that one customer where the comfort has been established to fine tune to solution.
Though this customer does not need to be replaced immediately, and of course one should continue working with existing customer. The start-up must look for alternative customers in case the current one needs to be replaced.
Getting out of the building, and actively looking to replace existing customer with new ones will drive the start-up to faster growth, and more iterations. The danger here becomes the offering becomes too diversified. Working with a strategy to choose which projects to prioritize is extremely important. An example we use is the Task Priority Matrix. More info can be found on https://www.smartsheet.com/priority-matrix-templates
Exploring Replicability in a structured way.
I would suggest once every 2 months an exercise should be done with multiple levels within the organisation to explore each and every segment of the business model canvas, and ask,
a. What players is it currently filled up with.
b. If we had to replace all of these with 2x the number of players we currently have, who will they be.
c. Go talk to those potential new players.
There are very few sports where every time the players kit up they are fully aware that it may be their last ride than Formula 1. The greatest teams must always be thinking about the requirement that they may have to replace their key driver immediately. This is probably what prompted Michel Schumacher to say “Everyone is replaceable, including me”
Thanks to my son misplacing the original Mr Legopreneur, we got a new Founder. The Mission and Vision of the Legopreneur project is the same. I want to continue playing Lego with my kids, talk to them about Entrepreneurship, and share the simple lessons with the universe. Only thing that has changed is that the new Mr Legoprenuer is wearing a white top, and khaki trousers.