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Why Dr. Evil Always Has A Number Two

Early 2000s, I found myself visiting numerous factories and distribution centres of various sizes across a big US firm’s European operations, on a mission to convince them all to buy in to a new way of scheduling production and setting inventory levels. (I know- the days flew by.)

Despite multiple nationalities, and innumerable permutations of organisation structure, a single common theme emerged - each operation was essentially the patch of one person. Imagine a bit of Wild West, throw in some seat-of-pants decision-making, excessive mobile phone usage (whilst driving too fast) and you’re a lot of the way to understanding how these (mostly) benevolent dictatorships were put together.

But ... recommendations we made on improving the business were never referred right to the top - for, in matters operational, Mr. Big always had a right hand man. This Number Two was uniquely defined by possession of polar opposite characteristics to the leader – a grasp of numbers versus intuition, a dependence on research versus gut-feel, for instance.

My conclusion at the time was that the big cheeses in the US parent had been canny – they wanted the entrepreneurial spirit and instinct of the leader, but for that to be tempered and for risks to be managed. But since then, I’ve seen the pattern repeat many, many times in small businesses here, and changed my conclusion. 

Rather than being imposed by overarching leadership, this Dr Evil / Number Two construct is self-evolving and self-sustaining. They actively seek out each other.

I know a pair of individuals who have built, run and sold two or three businesses together and yet if you saw them in internal meeting together, you’d conclude they couldn’t stand each other (a view that would be enhanced if you talked to them individually). However, put them in front of a client, and a seamless proposal can be delivered – effortlessly moving from sales pitch, to how a project will be delivered, to the nitty gritty of getting the work started.

So, if you’re a business owner and you’re Dr Evil, do you have a Number Two?

Or if you’re a business owner but you’re profile is more of Number Two, how are you going to get a Dr Evil to run the firm for you?

Let me know what you think!

'Phil

To save you asking, my multiple personality disorder enables me, uniquely, to cover both roles.


Published: 01-05-14 by Phil Baxter

small business, start ups, dr evil, number two