in Building a business

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Becoming the hybrid between manager & maker usually happens when you are either a one-person company or when you try to scale up.

Most companies start with one or two founders. Maybe even a hobbyist or a one-man (or woman) show who’s looking to grow.

In the beginning, everyone starts off as makers – they are the ones doing everything. But then, you have to become a manager as well. 

If you’re a content marketing company, you were writing the content. If you’re a SaaS company, you were writing the code yourself, etc.

As you start growing your business, you find yourself in a situation where you now have to keep “making” things (writing code, text, etc.) but now you also need to manage your new team/co-workers.

While it sounds like a natural evolution of your role as a business founder – the transition phase between the two is a pitfall a lot of small businesses tend to fall into.

After the topic had come up with various business owners (some are startups, some come from other industries), I’ve decided to share my story/struggle and how I solved it.

Becoming the Maker/Manager hybrid

Over the last 18 months, I’ve been living a double work-life.

I’ve been working on a new venture, and I found myself in a whole new role. I went from being a pure maker into a maker-manager hybrid.

I come from the day-to-day grind of growth and content.

I’m used to writing all the content for my clients, connecting the API’s, creating the automation, running the tests, planning the strategies.

From the overall view down to every detail in the headline or pixel implemented.

I was focused on getting better and better at my craft – like any maker does.

About 18 months ago I started experimenting and scaling my work by building a team.

I found myself going from 100% maker into a part-time manager. I was now a 50% maker and 50% manager.

A Maker and a Manager have different needs

The issue with balancing the Maker-Manager mindset is that they have different needs and you need to appreciate and give each of them what they need.

They both take expensive resources such as Time, Energy and Attention.

They fight over those very limited resources – draining from each other and especially from you.

If you are right now in a similar transition phase, you’d probably recognize it by how much less you’re able to get done during the day.

Suddenly three meetings and two tasks can completely block your day.

That’s because changing your focus from one mindset to the other takes time – between 20 to 30 minutes to the exact.

For example:
If you just wrote a 2,500-word blog post, it’s very hard to go straight back into the “meeting-with-client” mindset, or interviewing a new potential employee.

You can physically do it, but at the moment, you’re in your best performance. Your brain is just not there yet.

If you just went through a 3-hour kick-off meeting with your team, planning your next action items, it will be very hard for you to go back to your desk and do some copywriting for your new website.

Regaining focus when switching from one task to another takes time. Switching between mindsets takes even longer.

5 Actionable tips to balance the Maker VS. Manager mindset

The first step in living a good Manager-Maker balance is understanding that they have different needs – structure your days around that.

For example:
Managerial time can be broken into smaller segments of 20 minutes.

Maker time, on the other hand, needs big chunks of uninterrupted time because any attention breakers can slow down your work by requiring up to an additional 20% from your time and effort.

So how do you balance both? This is what’s been working for me:

1. Pre-schedule time for each mindset

When scheduling your week, make a list of what tasks need your managerial attention and what tasks need your maker attention and block time accordingly.

If you’re an early riser like me, I schedule 2 hours (between 08:00-10:00) for “Maker Time” before stepping into the office or opening my inbox.

That’s how I can guarantee my mind won’t get distracted by any email I read. The emails will get answered at 10:00.

If this doesn’t work for you, I would recommend starting your day with 30 minutes of managerial time and then block 2 hours for Maker Time (depends on your task).

Another option is setting between 1 or 2 days a week in which you can start with 20 minutes of “Manager Time” in the morning (to make sure everything is running) and then block the rest of the day for Maker Time.

Again, depends on your capacity and your needs.

2. When being a maker – remove yourself from the space you are managing.

If you’re sitting with your team, they would want your attention. It’s just how it is.

If they don’t ask for it, you will still be distracted by your urge to manage what is around you.

The best way to guarantee you won’t get distracted – is to remove yourself from the scenery.

I’m not talking about a different room; I’m talking about leaving the office.

This is where I’m writing this post:

Remove yourself from the scenery for some alone maker time

Remove yourself from the scenery for some alone maker time

3. Predefined tasks for your time blocks

Don’t wait for the scheduled time to figure out what are you going to do in it.

If you’ve blocked 30 minutes for the managerial mindset, don’t start your 30 minutes by thinking “what should I do now.”

Plan ahead! – “This 30 minutes are for emails and cleaning my inbox”.

Same goes for maker’s mindset – it’s hard to get into the zone. If you’re blocking 3 hours of your work day, don’t waste time by wandering off on your to-do list.

Also, creating those mini deadlines (in 3 hours I will have X ready) will help you get it done. It’s called the rule.

4. Plan your tasks at the beginning of the week

How much time do you need to spend this week as a maker and how much time as a manager?

Once you know the critical tasks for the week/month, you’ll be able to efficiently save time for each.

Be flexible based on what you see is needed and would be more beneficial for your business.

5. Plan for one of them to eventually go away

Don’t forget – your goal is to become either a great manager or a great maker eventually.

In the long run, the 50%-50% situation is not productive for you or your business. So start working on eliminating one of the two.

Some makers would like to stay makers forever, and they can hire managers (yes, even someone to manage your company as you remain as the primary shareholder and a maker).

Or you’d rather complete your transition from maker to manager and then you’ll have to make sure you bring amazing people to work with you and train them properly.

Quick note for the romantic makers out there:

It’s important to notice that there is a difference between becoming a 100% manager and stop being a maker altogether.

For example – as we’re building a new company, when it comes to marketing, content, and growth, I am hands on (maker mindset) as well a the CEO (manager mindset).

Why? Because I think that in what I do, it’s important to always to keep your hands in the dirt to maintain congruency.

Also, I started this company because I love doing what I do and don’t want to stop doing it – and this is why I’m writing this blog post.

I do it for our company, but my team is doing the hands-on for our clients.

Still, my official role is mostly managerial and strategic, even if I still do some of the hands-on tasks myself now and then.

Now to you

The biggest problem people face with the manager vs. maker duality is not acknowledging it for what it is and the differences they hold.

If you don’t appreciate the different needs in each mindset, you’ll be stuck in juggling both unproductively which will eventually lead to frustration and your business being stuck.

I found that by understanding the differences between the two, you can optimize your approach and find the right balance.

Now to you – how do you manage this conflict? Let me know in the comments.


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  1. This is definitely a challenge to master. I’ve been in this split role for 20 years as a professional. So I’m not sure it goes away. Makers are going to make. And some of them become managers and CEOs.

    Here are some things I’ve done along the way, that have helped me. (I’ve launched a few hundred websites, a few books and magazines, and a lot of campaigns and 4 businesses as well as consulted a couple hundred CEOs and recently co-lead the acquisition of an ecommerce saas platform)… I work alongside a lot of MBAs who are NOT makers, they are strictly manager only and it shows in their decision making, strategy development, and understanding of execution.

    I’ve found that I am best when I get up at 3 or 4am and work on my personal study /growth time, passion projects, and maker roles. All before 8am then I go to work and keep my maker mindset on until noon.

    From 8 to noon I limit all meetings unless it’s for me to get something I need. This is also the time I invest heavily in thoughtful strategic planning.

    Then from noon until 6pm I help everyone else with their meeting needs, time with others for brainstorming and problem solving, removing blockers etc. this is the time I’m in leader / manager mode with back to back calls and commitments for others.

    Tactically I try to protect every morning until noon. That’s when I know I need to perform in maker ways, get deliverables out, and stay on track. I’m pretty relentless about this time. But I do have to give slices away because it’s impossible to block everyday all the time.

    Other wise, I use agile approach for daily incremental value. SMART goals help too. And I love sticky note reminders…

    Which leads me to an important tactic. Capture ideas, tactics, copy items, answers or insights into problems you are working through, and anything that is moving something forward. Capture it immediately in EVERNOTE or text editor, or email it to yourself, whatever works for you. The key here is to have a way to let your brain bring you answers and act on them without commuting big chunks of time to it. We need to capture so our brain limits what’s being buffered because that’s noise and we can’t do it all at once. So grab it, log it, get back to the work you were trying to do so you can move that work forward as planned with confidence the other thing is recorded and not needing additional energy at the same time.

    You have to find some systems that work for you and trust them. And then do you’re system. Daily.

    And lastly, maker managers are most valuable when they have learned how to prioritize, assess value, and help others do at least some of what they used to do themselves.

    At least, that’s how it’s gone for me on this journey.

    Good luck to you on yours!

    // Typing from iPhone please excuse typos or weird grammar, 🙂