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Many founders start their own company as much out of a desire to do their own thing as wanting to take advantage of a great idea. There’s an obvious appeal to being your own boss, particularly for those who have for years bristled at decisions and directives handed down to them while in the employ of others. The newfound freedom of your own company is not unlike the first taste of independence we all experience as teens or young adults, and the temptation to push too far in the direction in which you were previously restrained could be as strong as it was in your hormone-driven rebellion.
Being the boss can be liberating and empowering, and the recently acquired power intoxicating. But there is a danger in taking that power too far and letting that authority become too isolating, to the detriment of your company. Here are some thoughts on how to avoid that particular pitfall.
People who need people are the most successful people. Unless your business model is doing close-up magic tricks at kids’ birthday parties, you’re going to need other people to help you get your business where you want it to go. (And even some magicians have assistants.) Though it is your company, and you are ultimately the boss of anyone you bring in, flexibility is key in any sort of team environment. You’re bringing in other people to fill in the gaps in your own knowledge and expertise so it wouldn’t make much sense to dictate what you want them to do without any input from them. Take advantage of the knowledge and insight you have in the room.
Moreover, ideas coming from a single source, with only a single perspective, aren’t going to be as good as for which you’ve sought feedback and concerns from all areas of your business. Ruling by fiat is your right as the employer, but ideas, plans and policies implemented without outside consideration aren’t going to have the same sort of buy-in or enthusiasm as those crafted by your team, in addition to likely not be as well thought out.
Meeting with the mentor on your hero’s journey. You might have a definitive idea on what you want to accomplish with your company and how you want to get there, but for as confident and headstrong as you might feel at the outset, you don’t know everything or even as much as you think you do. An unwillingness to back down from a decision or alter your vision or goals for your startup might seem like a strength, an unshakeable resolve that will ultimately help you to meet your objective. But what you might see as determination can be hardheadedness or stubborn pride that prevents you from listening to outside voices that could help you in your drive for success.
Mentors and advisors serve a key role in helping any entrepreneur on their path, provided that you’re willing to listen to them and take their advice to heart. You aren’t bound to follow their advice no matter what they say, but if you can at least weigh and consider their words before making key decisions, you can be assured that you will avoid the tunnel vision and insularity that risk compounding bad decisions into increasingly worse mistakes.
The customer is mostly right. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own vision for what you’re building with your company, to the point that you can ultimately lose focus on what your ultimate goal is, or should be: to offer your product or service to people or businesses outside of your own walls. You shouldn’t abandon your fundamental ideas to chase what is hot at the moment, but you also shouldn’t chase a vision and build a product that is ultimately for an audience of one. When developing your ideas for your startup, you should be weighing what consumer appetites are as much as your own.
Even when you have a product that has found a nice in the market, you should still be looking to improve and expand based on what customers are telling you with their dollars and their feedback. As with everything else, it’s a balancing act between your own ideas and what you’re hearing from those both inside and outside your company; it’s your job as both leader and decision-maker to be able to synthesize those ideas into something viable and workable that makes the most people happy, yourself included.
That is the contradiction at the heart of being a founder: in order to get others on board to help you achieve your goals and your vision, you have to make changes and compromises to those goals and visions along the way. In other words, as reality sets in, where there was previously a perfect, unaltered idea, albeit one that existed only in the airless spaces of your mind, you must be open to change. But that is a contradiction and conflict that we should want, and even strive for; none of us can hope to succeed alone, and all of us are made better for having people to help us make the difficult decisions that are required in running our own business. #onwards.
April 16, 2019 at 10:20AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs