Category: Entrepreneurs, Small Business, Home Office (AA3)
Originally Submitted on 10/11/96.
It's easy to criticize an entrepreneur, especially if you're married to one, work for one or are coaching/consulting one. Entrepreneurs, like any pioneer, have their own set of (always evolving) rules and strategies. Many entrepreneurs are successful in spite of themselves. The key in working well, and enjoying, entrepreneurs is to fully understand their weaknesses, because these are often their biggest strengths, although YOU may not think so! Here is a list of weakness and the strengths that they "are."
1. Can't focus, lots of ideas, runs in circles.
If the entrepreneur could focus, they'd be a bookkeeper (no offense to bookkeepers; I was a CPA for years). The entrepreneur's currency is ideas, often a flood of ideas. This is good. Encourage MORE ideas, don't try to pin them down. When they feel your support in challenging them to come up with more and BETTER ideas, the flow is restored and they'll find the one to really NATURALLY focus on. Really. The reason they can't focus is that they haven't yet flushed out all of the half-baked ones.
2. Not good with details.
Duh. Why should they be. Sure, it would be great if they would focus on details, and in fact, many entrepreneurial-types fail or have lots of stress (think ValuJet's CEO), specifically because they won't or cannot sweat the details. But given many won't deal with details well, suggest they give up even trying. Sure, this may create a mess, but challenge the entrepreneur to solve the mess as if the mess was a new business! That'll get 'em thinking! (Entrepreneurs are like kids; it's good to divert them.)
3. Feel odd, different, alone, strange.
Entrepreneurs are simply wired differently and they SHOULD feel this way, because it's TRUE and there is nothing wrong with it at all. In fact, if you can help the entrepreneur to relish their unique, contrary, leading edge ways, you'll help them feel better about themselves (their different-ness), which will increase the flow of ideas and success. Educate the entrepreneur to understand not just themselves as individuals but to understand about the species called Homo entrepreneurs.
4. Good at starting business, bad at running them.
This is very true of many entrepreneurs, but you know, many entrepreneurs think that they have an obligation to run their businesses and become a great manager. 90% will never be great managers; they shouldn't even try -- too much stress on everyone! The solution: Help the entrepreneur to set a "sell date" right now, so they know they're getting out and when! This relieves some of the pressure and also forces the enterpreneur to create a sell-able company vs one that is just a monument to their ego (and I mean this lovingly). It's essential that you and the entrepreneur get that there's no reason an entrepreneur can't start and sell 25 businesses. Selling is not failure; it's good business and lets the entrepreneur play instead of being saddled with responsibilities that they just don't want, but feel that they should have. Help the entrepreneur to "get" that they'd really rather NOT run their business and that they prefer to start new ones. This will turn a perceived weakness into a profitable strength.
5. Chaos reigns in the company.
This is fairly common, for several reasons. First, the entrepreneur LIKES chaos and is unlikely to attract or be able to hire a manager that is cross-platform: able to both manage the people/operations and ALSO be able to put up with the personality or constant flow of ideas and changes that the entrepreneur is likely to have. A solution is to design the company so that it can afford the chaos and the financial stress that chaos usually brings. A second solution is to educate the entrepreneur and staff that chaos CAN be good business and not to worry about it. Another solution is to ask the entrepreneur to solve the chaos problem by thinking of it as a foundering business that the entrepreneur has purchased. His/her job: Turn it into a profit center! This will get the juices flowing. Another solution is to help the entrepreneur to create fully automated and foolproof systems, usually managed by outside contractors or vendors who are not IN the business day to day. This works well, because it forces the employees/owner to use the systems, which are mostly computer based. Boys will be boys and it's better to save them from themselves sometimes! Systems do this. Remember: Creation IS messy! It shouldn't have to be, but often is.
6. They fail. And fail again.
This one's tricky if you look at the failing business as a problem or as a reflection on the entrepreneur's ability and strengths. In this case, their weaknesses were bigger than their strengths and the business failed. But, just like a kid has to fall a couple of times when learning to ride a bike, so do entrepreneurs fail as they learn how to be successful. Remember, it's the SPARK that the entrepreneur has that is the REAL source of profitability. It's just that there is often a learning curve as the entrepreneur learns to compensate for his/her weaknesses by delegating, outsourcing, maturing, and learning new skills. The Spark usually wins in the end. Note: Just like you can't really tell much to an adolescent because "they know it all," you often can't tell much to an entrepreneur because they DO know it all! Don't try to parent the entrepreneur; you'll lose. Just love them and be there when they fail. That helps them learn faster.
7. They exaggerate and are too optimistic.
This is good! Encourage the entrepreneur to exaggerate as much they want to. This is a reverse way to get them to tell the truth. It works. Exaggeration and pipe dreaming are as important to the entrepreneur as faith and believing are to Christians and other religions. It just comes along with the lifestyle. It's part and parcel. It's hard to have one without the other. Entrepreneurs are so out in front of the rest of us that they NEED to exaggerate how well things are going, in order to keep the faith -- hey it's lonely out in front (or in left field, depending on how savvy the entrepreneur is!). Exaggeration, pipe dreaming and denial are the tools and comforts of the trade of entrepreneurism. Sure, many entrepreneurs grow through this, but don't try to take away their blankie until they're ready. They need it.
8. Always at the edge financially.
This one's a toughie, because of the "unnecessary" stress it can cause to the entrepreneur, the business, employees, families. What I've sought to do is to educate the entrepreneur who is always at the edge that there is an emotional dilemma that they are trying to heal, via their business. The psychological source of this "always at the edge" may be an addiction to adrenaline, the pleasure/high of "pulling it off" at the last minute, or the high that victory brings, the need to be better than everyone else/compensate and even the inability to establish a reserve of cash and time so that they function without this stress. In my own case, I pushed so hard that I was always just barely making it, even though sales kept growing significantly. When I learned that this was because of self esteem (technically, a "havingness level" problem -- meaning that I couldn't let myself "have" what I was earning), I was able to make a couple of minor changes and establish such a healthy reserve that I am set for life (and can play with projects such as these Top Ten Lists!). The traps the entrepreneur will fall into is to increase their lifestyle just as quickly as their company grows. Mistake. But, back to why being at the edge financially is such a strength. It's because the entrepreneur has proven, time and time again, that they are resourceful, can survive and bounce back from adversity. This is GREAT! Now, direct the entrepreneur to direct this energy into creating a healthy savings account instead of leveraging so much, and you'll have a successful entrepreneur.
9. Family of the entrepreneur suffers.
Another toughie. You didn't just marry a man/woman or a businessman/woman. You married an ENTREPRENEUR! And he/she didn't come with instructions, warning labels or antidotes. Oops! If entrepreneurial genes were find-able in the DNA, they'd be considered a strong, strong drug. Reality aside, it's best that you develop your own strong interests and let your husband/wife do their own thing. You'll always be #2 (well, maybe #1 and a half). You can have a great marriage if you get this.
10. Sales dip.
Sales dip because the entrepreneur has turned over some or all of the sales function to others. Take this as an invitation for the entrepreneur to get back to selling, where they usually shine.
About the Submitter
This piece was originally submitted by Thomas J. Leonard, Infopreneur, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visited on the web. The original source is: Top Ten Creation Call, October 1996.
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