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Friday, July 10, 2015

The Biggest Entrepreneurial Flaw

It is not news to state that most new businesses fail. People blame competition, a bad economy, lack of working capital, not reading trends correctly and a host of other factors. All of these things are true to a certain degree for failed enterprises. The more I observe, I more I believe a great deal of the failure of struggling entrepreneurs is due to the time management of the entrepreneur.

Many who fail try to do everything themselves and refuse to delegate small, time consuming tasks to others. Remember the Carter presidency? Allegedly, if one wanted to use the White House tennis courts, you had to sign up just outside the Oval Office. The president would glance at it frequently. When one is mired in minutiae such as that, how successful can a global leader be? I once knew a media director at a fair sized shop who had the cleanest billing backlog in the business. He had NO backlog. What stunned me was how he bragged about it. To myself, I called him the highest paid billing clerk in American Advertising. Yes, he had no backlog but soon he had no job and the pattern happened a few more times before he left the business. He had the brains to be a complete media person but it was hard to wrap his head around issues even at industry gatherings where I occasionally saw him.

I always put in some long hours but tried to play to my strengths and hired someone for my weaknesses or the when the risk/reward ratio seemed out of whack. So, I followed industry trends, stayed in touch with big clients, was careful about what was released to clients but had others monitoring billing and most day to day activity on smaller accounts.

On a larger scale, founders have to sometimes step down as CEO to succeed. This is hard to do given the egos involved but is often necessary. Do you believe that Google would be the dominant company that it is today if Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the brilliant founders, had not hired Eric Schmidt, a seasoned executive to actually run the place? They had the humility to, in effect, “fire themselves” to free themselves up to continue to innovate.

I know a small agency CEO who literally does everything. Nothing leaves the shop without his fingerprints on it. He is cranky and exhausted but claims that he loves it. Staff turnover is huge and he does not seem to grasp that few are learning much of anything as he makes all decisions. Some get lazy and do poor work knowing the boss will “fix it.” They are surviving, for sure, but have not grown agency billing in years. I do not think that they ever will.

What are you? A manager, a visionary, or a swashbuckling entrepreneur? Figure that out and you can enhance your chances for success almost exponentially. As Plato said 2400 hundred years ago, “Know Thyself.”

In more modern times Warren Buffett sums up the issue well. At one of his famous “Woodstock for Capitalists” annual meetings where he and vice-chairman Charlie Munger answer questions for hours, he said: "Be realistic in assessing your talents. A number of CEO’s have no idea where their circle of competence begins and ends.” Find out your circle of competence and great things may occur.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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