Drew Hansen, who is the Director of Editorial Business Operations at Forbes, recently wrote an interesting article on how both artists and entrepreneurs make themselves vulnerable by presenting an extension of themselves in their work that is new or challenging. The best entrepreneurs are those who can identify the next great thing and have the inner strength to continue pushing for a solid result, despite the typical lack of easy, all-encompassing acceptance.
This is all well and good, but the article got me thinking about what makes a bad entrepreneur. The type of boss who throws out buzz words at every opportunity, wanting to web 2.0 the streamlined memory cloud. Who refuses to accept even the tiniest change to their plan when the advice comes from an employee, but is completely happy throwing out months of work to incorporate a vague idea that came to them in a dream. The boss who will spend all day looking at cat videos, but expects you to only take two previously specified, five-minute bathroom breaks.
After asking around the office and reading a few horror stories online, here are four ways to be a terrible, awful, horrible entrepreneur. For the sake of your employees and investors, please try to avoid them.
1. Be Egotistical
This company is your baby; you thought it up, raised it, and are now trying to send it on its way to change the world… and maybe bring back a heaping sackful of cash. The egomania of entrepreneurs is well known, and typically understood. When it comes down to the list o’ traits that entrepreneurs carry, pride does not count as a deadly sin. You need a certain level of pride to even stick it out and create the company. If you are not confident in your product, then you can bet your investors won’t be either.
HOWEVER, there is a difference between being proud and being egomaniacal. Look around your office; do you have a giant painting of yourself wrestling a bull? If so, you may have overstepped your bounds.
In all seriousness, no one likes an egomaniac. If you have a tendency to brag, try to catch yourself before you list off your accomplishments to the college graduate you are thinking about hiring. There is a time and a place to break out the credentials, so be sure to try and ground yourself before going too far off left-field. And that is good advice in general; even if you don’t spend your lunches walking between cubicles, showing people photos of your kids, house and framed MBA diploma, we can all benefit from stepping back and trying to move the conversation away from ourselves. No one wants to be seen as an egomaniac, but I’m sure you can think of a time when you were talking to someone and the subject of the conversation never really left them. Maybe, just maybe, someone has experienced the same thing when talking to you.
2. Embrace Your Stubbornness
This one goes hand in hand with the problem of egomania, but deserves its own mention in our top four list. Stubbornness is a serious issue in the world of business. As the entrepreneur, the one responsible for bringing everyone together in your office, you need to remember that you hired your employees to be more than impressive decoration for when investors swing by. They have their own experience, value and knowledge that can be benefited from. Of course, you’ll occasionally have that employee that is constantly nagging you about one thing or the other; the placement of marketing, the type of ad campaign you want to do, the proper way to perform R & D.
I’m not surprised that some CEOs and entrepreneurs just end up tuning out the drone, hoping it goes away. Well it probably won’t, so after you fix your hiring practices so you don’t get interns/employees like that, be sure to keep your ears open. You probably know your product best, but don’t put off an air of intimidation by smacking down idea after idea. After a while your employees will just clam up, and then you’ll be wondering why no one likes to brainstorm with you.
Keep your mind and ears open; you never know when a great idea just needs a little polishing.
3. Or be a Spineless Wimp
I just told you to be open to your employees’ ideas and not be egomaniacal, and now I’m telling you to stand up for yourself? I promise I’m not just trying to fill up space. As with all things, you want to achieve a happy medium. Don’t be too close-minded, but at the same time be willing to shelve a dumb idea.
And, I know, there are no such things as dumb ideas. Well… sometimes there are. You should consider your employees’ suggestions, but don’t be afraid to nicely tell them you’re not sure if you can use that particular thought at this moment.
At the end of the day, you’re the boss. You know this product and, hopefully, you do have a little bit of pride in the effort you have put in thus far into creating your business. As I said earlier, good entrepreneurs are those who are willing to go against the grain on a hunch that the market needs their service or product. If you have a good gut instinct (almost like, say, a spidey-sense for business conditions), use it! If you consider all the advice given, and still want to take the road less travelled, then perhaps you should. It’s gotten you this far, after all.
4. Remain Anti-Social
This is my witty play on words. Yes, you should be willing to put yourself out there and rub elbows with your chamber of commerce, local politicians and adoring consumers. But you should also focus on online sociality; Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and probably Google+ before it begins to take off. This is where many entrepreneurs end up falling flat. Very few people will advise against hiring a PR firm to help build brand awareness, and yet there are businesses all across America who refuse to do anything with Social Media, other than spam their Twitter feed and buy Facebook fans.
A good social media campaign, along with a solid social media team, can do wonders for getting a company more recognition. The internet is becoming the number one source of entertainment for millions of people, and to ignore that would be awfully stubborn. Which, as you may recall, I advised against.
So hire some good employees, keep an open mind, and fire up Facebook. While you may not personally have any of these traits, there may be some inkling of them nested deep in your habits. Self-examination is key and could potentially help both you grow as an entrepreneur, and your business grow as a… well, a business.