The Farmer phase starts when the entrepreneur begins the shift from self-employed to business owner.

She has hired her first employee, even if it’s a low-level role. She’s begun paying himself a little. But she’s probably still the face of the company. She’s probably still opening the doors at 5 AM, then answering emails and making sales calls “when she can.” She’s still working in the business instead of working on the business. She’s busy being busy. In the Farmer phase, the entrepreneur is susceptible to martyrdom. “No one can do it like I can!” she thinks, whether about sweeping the floors or training the clients. And she’s right: no one else would do it that cheaply, that tired, or at the expense of their kids’ baseball games. No one else would work for a boss so demanding, so cheap, so ruthless. But in buying herself a job, the Farmer is beholden to her own self-worth.

My role as mentor to the Farmer is to replace her in low-value roles, and fill her time with high-value roles. It’s to systemize her batter-mixing, replace her at the front counter, and teach her to grow her reach. Eventually, it’s to get her home by dinnertime. The Farmer phase is where 90% of entrepreneurs spend the entirety of their careers. They call themselves “owner-operators,” and most will never even retire from their business, let alone become wealthy or create meaningful careers for others. But some do. These are the Tinkers.

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