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Episode 152 – The Tinker Phase of Entrepreneurship, with Jeff Smith

By Chris Cooper & Greg Strauch

Jeff Smith is the owner of Cannon CrossFit, a real estate investor, and leader of the TwoBrain Tinker program.In this episode, Jeff talks about his story, what it means to be a mentor, and what it means to help those in the Tinker Phase.​Contact Jeff:Jeff.smith@twobrainbusiness.comTimeline:2:39 – Introduction with Jeff Smith11:30 – Joining Two Brain as a mentor13:09 – Joining the military, the motivation behind the decision15:31 – Jeff’s other business, real estate.17:14 – The importance of being a lifelong learner21:27 – The benefits of splitting up your day with a workout22:39 – How has a real estate investing led to becoming a better mentor26:12 – The importance of learning while mentoring someone else ​29:53 – How to contact Jeff​​“For this reason, they must believe in the cause for which they are fighting. They must believe in the plan they are asked to execute, and most important, they must believe in and trust the leader they are asked to follow.”—Jocko Willink, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and WinFounder, Farmer, Tinker, ThiefIn the Great Information Age, we all have access to more knowledge than we can absorb, let alone act upon. And action is the only thing that matters. So what knowledge should entrepreneurs have? What action should they take? When?The modern problem for business owners isn’t lack of knowledge: it’s too much knowledge. It’s paralysis by analysis. It’s overwhelm.Entrepreneurs pass through four distinct phases as they first grow their business, and then their leadership. These phases are Founder, Farmer, Tinker and Thief.In the Founder Phase, the entrepreneur leaps off the cliff with his big idea. His goal is simple: to survive.The Founder Phase takes a heavy toll — physically exhausting, financially terrifying, and the largest strain on every personal relationship the Founder has. My job as mentor is to get the Founder out of the Founder Phase as quickly as possible. Many never survive this phase.The Farmer Phase starts when the entrepreneur begins the shift from self-employed to business owner. He’s hired his first employee, even if it’s a low-level role. He’s begun paying himself a little. But he’s probably still the face of the company. He’s probably still baking the donuts at 4am, then answering emails and making sales calls “when he can”. He’s still working in the business instead of working on the business. He’s busy being busy.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.But some do. These are the Tinkers.A Tinker has built a business that runs itself. Now she’s trying to build another; or to duplicate her first success; or to take her first idea to a new market; or to start over with a new idea. If she’s not given new challenges, the Tinker will probably stick her hands in the machine, constantly “tweaking” her original business until it’s broken.My role as mentor to Tinkers is to help them identify the Next Big Project, and then keep them focused on it. I’ve never met a Tinker who didn’t have at least three Big Projects in mind. Free from their original business — and still making passive income from it — the Tinker’s greatest risk is killing the golden goose.The Tinker’s attention must shift from developing their first business to developing themselves as a leader. That means a plan for physical activity, mental acuity, and mental training. It means peer support: “It’s lonely at the top” describes the Tinker to a capital T. It means mentorship from someone who has successfully navigated the “valley of death” created by hiring a management layer for the first time.

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