From my March column for the Kitsap Sun
One of the hallmarks of the “American dream” is for that opportunity to build your own business from a passion and have it form your lifestyle and security for generations. Entrepreneurship is a noble avocation. Many of you reading this are entrepreneurs holding the title of Founder, President, CEO, or just Boss.
Small business enterprise drives the economy of our country and is responsible for employing millions of people. That being said, entrepreneurship requires more than courage, guile, and persistence. To attain both success and significance, entrepreneurs must disabuse themselves of the myths and avoid the monsters that threaten their great achievements.
I’ve identified 5 Myths with accompanying Monsters that must be debunked by savvy entrepreneurs to maximize their impact on customers, clients, employees, and community. Sparing no expense with a fancy headline, allow me to present and offer solutions to Dan Weedin’s 5 Myths & Monsters:
Myth #1: You must work harder and longer hours than anyone else. The subsequent Monster is fatigue and health issues caused by forcing your nose to the grindstone. Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you have to work longer hours and perform labor that is more effectively hired or delegated out. You’re the boss for a reason. That position has much more to do with your “smarts.”
You have the task of being strategic and visionary. You should transfer your skills to others through mentoring, training, and coaching. You should allow yourself the time to think about growing your company, providing jobs and value, and seeking new opportunities. Many entrepreneurs founded a business to leave a boss, only to get a much worse one. Don’t be that boss. Be a leader that models efficiency and productivity.
Myth #2: You have no control. The Monster is discouragement, and this murders innovation and talent. A popular misconception is that most entrepreneurs are control freaks. In my experience, many believe they have little to no control over the economy, their employees, their customers, and local politics, to name a few. This mindset will often lead to bitterness and anger, and can be transferred to the culture of the company.
You have more control than you think. You can control the products and services you offer. You control your pricing. You control whom you employ and for how long. You control with whom and where you do business. You control short and long term strategies. You control how long you want to work. Finally, you control your own attitude. Those that feel powerless will look into the future with dread and anxiety. Those who seize control are opportunistic in any economy or situation. Be the latter.
Myth #3: The future is scary. The Monster is paralysis by fear. I’ve talked to people that fear technology, competition, and the zombies charging the hill. There is a reticence to change or try new things.
Smart and sophisticated business leaders are innovative. They brainstorm; they ask “what if:” and they boldly take risks. I have a standing calendar event where every Friday I invest time in thinking up new intellectual property – both in products and services. It doesn’t matter whether I discover something every week or not. What matters is that I am thinking (there’s that word again).
Don’t stand still. Find a path to the cutting edge in your industry. Create programs, invent processes and products, and step out of the box with vigor. Try to put yourself “in harm’s way” every day. The result will be an invigorated resilience where innovation rules. That will make the future exciting, not scary.
Myth #4: You’re not deserving. The Monster is loss of confidence. There is a malady called the CEO Effect that postulates that many chief executives are worried that one day they will be found out and thrown bodily from the building.
We all have great value that is demonstrated and shared through our skills and talents. This myth is based on low self-esteem, which seems contradictory to the position of a business leader. Let’s remember that we are all human and battle past experiences and current challenges, among other things. It happens more often than you think where loss of confidence is a thief of self-worth.
You are deserving. Accept failures as lessons. Define yourself by who you are, not what you do. Ask for help when you need it, but always remember that you are where you are for a reason. That reason is you, so be proud of it.
Myth #5: You’re alone. The Monster is a combination of loneliness and self-imposed exclusion. This is the old Lone Wolf adage. Many entrepreneurs arrive at that point through years of thinking they are the “only one” that can do, fix, sell, perform, or clean up anything. They become isolated through their own doing.
If you’ve fallen victim to this myth, remember that dogs are pack animals. “Lone wolves” don’t really exist except in our minds. There are many avenues to be part of a pack – executive groups, service/civic organizations, trade associations, coaches/mentors, and charitable organizations are a good place to start looking.
If you operate from a singular point of view mindset, you end up breathing your own exhaust. We know what happens next. If you choose to find yourself a pack of kindred “dogs,” you’ll open yourself up to new ideas, enhanced perspective, and even a place to just vent!
All of that is good for the entrepreneurial (and personal) spirit!
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