Hired Guns Are for Cowboy Movies, not Business

I had a delightful day yesterday with about 90 people who teach entrepreneurship in about 90 different places across the U.S. I was doing training related to my online curriculum, mostly, but we had a chance to talk about a variety of related topics.

One thing that came up in discussion and generated total consensus in the group was that the business plan document written by an outsider isn’t useful. I referenced my worst-ever consulting engagement, one of my favorite posts on this blog. Everybody in the room agreed that business planning is something you do, not something you buy. It’s a process, not a finished document.

Which reminds me of the idea of the hired gun, taken from cowboy movies. One of my favorites in the old days was Have Gun Will Travel, in which Richard Boone’s character, named Paladin (ha! the good old days) would ride into a new town every week, hired by somebody to solve a problem, all resting on the assumption that a stranger with a big gun and a fast draw was the solution. And of course it usually was, on the TV show.

But in real life? I do think there’s room in entrepreneurship and small business for experts to come from the outside and help with some problem or other? Does the hired gun idea work?

I think the answer is yes, sometimes, for some kinds of work. Outside experts, consultants, and professionals can be very helpful, if you have the money to spend. But they are not for doing the core thinking and decision making and management you have to do yourself. I’ve had success with outside people doing packaging, and with attorneys and CPAs, and copy writing, and other tasks that have relatively well defined deliverables. And regarding strategy, I think there are experts who help you take a fresh look, and apply a new framework. Getting a vendor to do web design, or hiring a designer to do your logo, that works well too. But there are a lot of core management things you — the owner, the entrepreneur — simply have to do yourself.

What do you think?



  • Tim Berry’s Wisdom of the Week says:

    […] Hired Guns Are for Cowboy Movies, not Business […]

  • Chris says:

    If you hire someone else to do your business for you, then it is more like you are an angel investor than an entrepreneur.
    Outside advice is useful, and won’t necessarily cause out of pocket expense.
    A board of directors can be very useful for business tactics, but leave the strategy to the entrepreneur.


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