Are you a ‘Builder’ or a ‘Protector’?


As the CEO, you are faced with making critical decisions every day. It doesn’t matter if you are a “solo-preneur” or if you have 550 employees. Those decisions can make you or they can break you.

For instance, you know in your head that you should be watching your cash, tracking it weekly, knowing what your cash flow cycle looks like, being aware of when cash is leaving your company or entering your company.

But when faced with the decision to pay more attention to that very critical challenge, you defer. You procrastinate. You hesitate. You do track it, roughly, in your head. That one decision, that single decision, to not fully engage in this critical financial indicator could mean your company may never have enough money to grow.

Or, let’s say you know you need to be better at sales. But you hate selling! You love talking about your product or your service; you just can’t pull the trigger with prospects and ask for the order. After all, you know what it feels like to be “sold to” and you never want to come across that way to someone else.

The decision to not improve your cash flow because you won’t make more sales could well lead to the demise of your company.

In every company, there is a hidden agent called the Builder/Protector Ratio. Every company has “Builders” — people who love risk, who look for opportunities, aren’t afraid of change and love facing the challenges of growing a business.

And there are “Protectors” — people who feel the need to slow things down, who are risk averse, aren’t happy with change and tend to spend most of their time worrying about what could happen.

A “hidden agent” lies beneath the surface of a company and because these hidden agents are not visible, the impact is hard to diagnose, hard to recognize and, as CEO, we sometimes address the surface issue and not the root cause of an issue. The hidden agent we call the Builder-Protector Ratio, is also referred to as the Confidence-Caution ratio and here’s why it’s an important concept for you to address as the leader.

If we can identify a problem and put a name to that problem, we can solve it. Think about when you are the Builder in your company. How does that look? What do you get done? How do you feel when you know you have aggressively taken steps to grow your business? On the flip side, when does your Protector show up? Is it when you are managing your cash? Determining when you can spend or when you should save your money? Bottom line, as CEO, you need to be both a Builder and a Protector. The challenge is making sure the right one is showing up at the right time.

Too much Protector when you are determining how to land that next client and you will find all kinds of excuses to not make that phone call or send that email. Too much Builder when you are looking at buying that next computer or that next online software program and you could outspend what you are earning.

 Be aware of your Builder-Protector Ratio and know when each one is showing up and why.

Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies and greater profitability. Email: [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the SCVBJ.

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