The Entrepreneur as Craftsman

It’s not just about the entrepreneur or the startup, it’s about building a great company. It’s about tapping into our basic instinct to do a job well and develop the skills to do so.

Just as a father consistently focuses on doing his job well and keeps trying new techniques to get better. Or a teenager who earned her license and someday must drive in the mountains, through snow, or alongside a caravan of trucks. In each case, the craftsman is dedicated to doing quality work.

To a craftsman entrepreneur, it’s not about the funding, the new product idea, the big customer, the systemized operations, or the amazing team. No, to the craftsmen, those are essentials in his workshop. He must use his imagination to solve problems, he must acquire the right tools and use them effectively, and he must keep working on technique and procedure.

He starts as an apprentice, diligently working at his craft under the tutelage and guidance of master craftsmen. Those seasoned veterans know that the best way to keep getting better is to keep practicing the craft for its own sake, not to achieve anything particular. Even when a master noddingly approves of the apprentice’s effort or the latter achieves a breakthrough, both know the apprentice has a long way to go; after all, it’s about the “how” not the “what”.

Even when his apprenticeship has ended, the craftsman continues to improve. He works on making everything better – his skills, tools, workshop, technique, and ideas. He continues to tap into the wisdom and experience of others who have walked in his shoes. He studies the quality of work performed by other craftsmen, not to judge him or them, but rather to learn from their methods. Even with the rewards and accolades he’s earned, he knows he can get better.

As his work starts to gain notice, his workshop is forced to grow. He gradually builds a reputation and attracts the attention of fresh apprentices and other craftsmen, those who would rather work alongside someone rather than start their own workshop. And then, one day, he recognizes that his craft is no longer just the work itself, but rather the workshop and those who do the work for its own sake.