It’s the ultimate dream for so many, to create a set-it-and-forget-it business.
Set up the systems, walk away and rake in the cash, while you’re off playing with your kids on the beaches of Punta Cana. Sounds nice, right?. This very business model has been touted for decades by many business and entrepreneurship gurus. And, it’s sold billions of dollars of info-products and trainings online.
But, I wonder if the set-it-and-forget strategy has dirty little secret?
That being…it might not work.
Don’t get me wrong, I too am a big fan of systems, they make my life easier and my businesses run smoother. They allow me to pull-back, to take vacations and do other things, while my business hums along. They let me own the #1-rated yoga center in NYC, while spending less than 10 hours a week working “in” the business.
But, I still know, deep down, that if I ever want to walk away, it’ll be to sell the company as I’ve done with prior ventures, not to become a tourist-CEO or fold it into a portfolio and watch it’s slow demise.
Simple fact—Even systems need need passion at the helm.
Any business that is birthed out of a sense of passion-driven mission is fueled, to a large extent, by the unique qualities, abilities, energy and cult-of personality of it’s founding visionary.
You can set up all the systems in the world, but when you pull the visionary out of the vision, without replacing them with someone who possesses similar qualities and abilities, things begin to slide. For most businesses, shuffling a system-implementor into the role of CEO just doesn’t work as a long term solution. At least, I’ve never seen it done in a way that works long term.
And, while sliding someone else with passion into your role might let you live your set it and forget it life…what about theirs?
“But, what about online businesses?” comes the reply…
You know, where it’s really just about order-processing and largely fungible good. Where it’s about creating a product once, then kicking back and letting it generate millions while you sleep?
Can’t those be purely systematized operations?
I don’t think so, on two levels.
- One, personality may not drive the product or service, but, as long as you have real live human beings working somewhere in the process, vision, personal energy and leadership still play a role. The moment you have people working for you, they need something to believe in. And, I don’t see systems ever being able to supplant this.
- Two, the vast majority of online products, especially info products fail. And, even the ones that succeed almost always end up burning out and losing their market. Being a successful online marketer means constantly coming up with new products, ideas, hooks, stories, niches and beyond. So, while a single product may end up being a home run, surviving long-term the the business of online marketing, beyond the life a a single product, takes a lot of vision, passion and hard work.
In fact, this phenomenon is not limited to small business.
Witness the debacles of a Jobs-free Apple, a Michael-free Dell, a Phil-free Nike and a Howard-free Starbucks. Here are giant, public, multinational companies, steeped in systems, analysis and testing. Yet, when their visionary founders either took a walk or were punted, the companies began to falter, leading the visionaries to eventually return in an effort to right their ships.
Are there “other factors” involved?
Of course, I don’t mean to oversimplify, but rather to reveal the fact that having someone at the helm with tremendous vision and ability is really important.
All the systems in the world won’t make up for a leader or leadership team who lack the ability to continue to grow and expand the vision, a CEO who’s driven by systems over innovation or worse, a founding visionary who chooses to walk away without ever officially passing the torch.
So, do systems greatly increase the amount of freedom a founding visionary can have from the day to day operations of the business? Sure.
But, do they enable the creation of a set-it-and-forget-it business? Not convinced.
But, as always, I am open to discussion.
What am I missing here, gang?
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