Entrepreneurs face no shortage of advice about how to make the most of their strengths, with guidance on which skills to embolden through training, education or self-directed practice. It’s like a goat rodeo out there. In fact, a cursory search on Amazon.com for entrepreneurship returns more than 56,000 books results. However, sometimes business owners, company founders and independent operators have to take a tough look in the mirror. That can mean not giving themselves gold stars and check marks for all the things they’re doing right. Instead, it demands taking a critical inventory of the qualities and tendencies that are truly flaws – and working towards overcoming them.
Here are some of the top things NOT to do as an entrepreneur, that is, if you want to grow, thrive and be effective for the long haul:
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with needing corrective lenses for vision. But if your myopia is actually a form of shortsightedness, now is the time to get a prescription. Many entrepreneurs are driven to become thought leaders and subject matter experts in their field. As a result, some might take exhaustive measures to become the most well-versed, highly read source in their discipline. Unfortunately, this can lead to a type of tunnel vision that discounts learnable lessons within other industries or about business and life in general. If the articles, books, conferences and professional development you partake in and consume are all about your single vertical or corner in the business-owning stratosphere, now is the time to broaden your focus. Many nuggets of knowledge and kernels of truth are universal and have transferable relevance to businesses of all kinds.
In some ways, a business owner has to be everyman (or everywoman). Every individual he or she comes into contact with is not just a random person; instead they are potential clients or customers, possible employees or contractors, or would-be prospects or referrals. This means entrepreneurs must nurture the connections around them, and not just surround themselves with like-positioned people within their industries, business circles or even their immediate neighborhood community. You must get out of your comfort zone, and sell yourself and your service. Even if you offer an exclusive, premiere service or product, you never know when the Plain Jane you discount today could become the archetypal customer you have in mind.
Be a Taskmaster.
Entrepreneurs probably trend towards being Type-A people. That means they like getting things done, often by leading the charge and calling all the shots. They do this because they love a sense of completion. But leadership is about more than assigning tasks, and effective delegation is actually a learned business skill. Business owners should be decisive with influence-building competency, but they should not be supervisors who stand over team members’ shoulders – critiquing and examining each step in processes, be they routine or complex. If you truly want to own your business one day and not just run it, you must master this principle. There’s no other way around it. That’s why entrepreneurs must hire qualified professionals whose judgment and ability they trust. Think of it: That’s why elected officials have a cabinet and why Boards of Directors have executive teams.
As business owners, we may think that having some level of comfort with ambiguity is a strength. In fact, so often we don’t know exactly what’s around the corner, what the outcome of the next decision will be or whether that deal we struck last week will be as profitable as we’d hoped. However, entrepreneurs must stand for something. They must have a vision worth following. A leader must also effectively cast a vision for the “why” and help bring others along.
We should have a solid foundation about the values, ethics, beliefs and philosophies that drive us every day, and that set the tone for the culture, interactions and identity of our business. We can’t risk leaving those principles and ideals to chance. Establish a meaningful mission, core values and a vision statement today. And don’t fear being firmly rooted to them. I require our team to memorize our mission and values; we test every employee twice per year. Our mission and values do not collect dust on some plaque… they are lived out and executed.
I’ve come to learn that entrepreneurship is synonymous with evolution. No business – and I mean no business – is ever static. You are either in growth or in decline. Every day, we’re so busy that, when time permits, we are apt to focus on what we do well, and strive to get even better at those things. But over the years I’ve learned that it’s just as important to be our own harshest critics.
Shoring up our shortcomings as business owners, no matter how tough it may seem, makes us stronger and more effective on the other side. I’m reminded of a quote the prominent theologian and philosopher Jean Vanier said: “Growth begins when we begin to accept our own weaknesses.”
Will you start today? What is starting to come into focus for you?