Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises — I. Close to the Heart
It is important to note that many closely held enterprises do not follow this traditional and often normative model of organizational effectiveness. These enterprises often do not differentiate. Everyone continues to lend a hand in all aspects of the enterprise, even as this enterprise grows larger and older. As a result, there is less need for formal integration among differentiated functions in these unique organizations. The informal and powerful integrative forces that existed when the enterprise was begun remain in force throughout the life of the organization. This is both an asset and liability for the enterprise and for the entrepreneurs who lead this enterprise.
What is the entrepreneurial challenge when roles remain diffuse? Typically, we find that the lack of boundaries and differentiation can lead to burnout. In closely held enterprises, burnout results neither from a lack of recognition for the work one does nor from a more general psychological alienation from the organization where one is employed. (These sources of burnout are more common in corporate life or in government.) Burnout in closely held enterprises is more likely to come from working too many hours, assuming too many responsibilities and finding no time away from the job—even when at home with “the family.”
The key factor is pacing. The entrepreneur can’t do everything, be everywhere, or achieve every goal at one time. While the solution to the problem of burnout seems obvious—quit working so hard—it is remarkable how often in consulting sessions, it all comes down to this one basic issue: “How do I, as an entrepreneur, serving in a leadership role in a closely held enterprise, find time for my family, for my personal restoration and for moments of reflection on the enterprise that I am leading?”
2. Tacit (Informal and Obvious) Intentions
A second major theme is voiced by many entrepreneurs in closely held enterprises: the intentions of the enterprise (Mission, Vision, Values, Purpose) are very important—but are not often discussed or even articulated. Why is this void the case and what are the implications?