The reality for entrepreneurs is that we have some serious competition in the risk-taking and dream-funding department, and we need to keep that in mind as we grow our companies, advise or mentor, and manage employees.
Sometime back, a friend and fellow entrepreneur shared an article on her Facebook page with a catchy and resonant title: Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness or Friends: Pick 3 by Inc. contributor Jessica Stillman. Citing a Twitter post by Facebook executive (and yes, sibling of Mark Zuckerberg) Ms. Randi Zuckerberg, Ms. Stillman celebrates what Ms. Zuckerberg’s calls The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma: a harsh reality of perpetual imbalance and difficult choices to remain a successful entrepreneur.
The piece and the overall concept resonated with me because I remember being in my early 20’s, having just started my own business, and realizing that I wasn’t going to have the same fun my peers were having – not for years, likely. While they were planning weekends on the beach, using PTO for quick jaunts to NYC, and boozy Sunday ‘fun days’, my reality was a 7-day workweek entailing cleaning toilets and getting screamed at by angry clients. Such is the life of the entrepreneur. Woe was me. Or was it?
My post-read smugness quickly subsided into a feeling of self-loathing as I realized that I had become ‘one of those’ entrepreneurs who felt that her story was somehow different than the leagues of other fellow careerists whose daily lives are also a series of If-Then statements. Those 7-day work weeks which were my reality for a decade weren’t unique to me then and aren’t unique to entrepreneurs today. The maxing of credit cards, reallocation of inheritances, and liens on personal assets to fund a dream was not unique to me in the early 2000’s and certainly not unique to entrepreneurs today.
The reality for entrepreneurs is that we have some serious competition in the risk-taking and dream-funding department, and we need to keep that in mind as we grow our companies, advise or mentor, and manage employees. From one career entrepreneur to another, be wary of becoming an Arrogantrepreneur. The Arrogantrepreneur can get in his/her own way and end up wreaking havoc for themselves, their loved ones, and their teams.
It took me reading Ms. Stillman’s article touting Ms. Zuckerberg to realize that I had swung into Arrogantrepreneur territory. Specifically, it was my husband, Jarrod, who shed light on my affliction. While still feeling validated and smug, I excitedly shared the content of the article with him. His reaction: heavy sigh, eye roll, and the following:
‘So, why is this unique only to entrepreneurs? Having to make these decisions is all I have ever known. I was an NCAA athlete on scholarship in college. I got my MBA while working full time, attending classes over an hour’s drive from Manchester. You owned a business and worked seven days a week for years, and that created challenges at home, especially after our daughter was born. I’d be careful about promoting this as only an entrepreneur’s dilemma. This is a modern dilemma.’
What Ms. Zuckerberg and Ms. Stillman promoted as an entrepreneur’s dilemma is, in reality, a dilemma for most in this country. There are those who work multiple jobs to support their families or their dreams. There are those who are on active duty and serving our country. There are those who, like my husband, are pursuing a first, second, or even third college degree while working full time. There are those who are single parents. There are those who have jobs requiring considerable travel. There are those who value philanthropy and spend time in their communities. And there are those who are caring for family who are unwell or elderly.
The bottom line is this: while I understand the need to promote that the scarcity vs. abundance mindset is a reality for many business owners, it is equally as important to promote not letting that mindset drive their decisions or treatment of others. Focusing on what sets us apart from one another rarely results in collective success – an essential aspect of growth and scaling.
Therefore, as a business owner or co-founder, how do you self-manage to ensure that you are leading from an attitude of abundance (vs. scarcity)? Below are a few tips which come from both personal and professional experience:
- Avoid holding the risks you took over the heads of those you employ or your family. Did you put a lien on your house? Did you max out your credit card? Did you give up something you love to fund your big idea? That was your choice – not theirs. It is unfair, and inappropriate, to make others feel fear or unease for something they did not choose. You can always share your fears and ask for help – but do not hold others responsible to fix your problems and get upset if they cannot deliver.
- Limit the notifications and reminders. The people that need to know who you are and what you did, already do. The worst-case scenarios are not hard for everyone to imagine. No need to verbally remind people who you are, what you risked, what will be lost, etc. The continuous reminders to others about the things you worry about can affect morale and motivation. Not to mention, it’s hard to respect someone who keeps reminding you they are important.
- Do not forget you weren’t alone. Whether it is a supportive spouse, mentor, friend, parent, or employee, all entrepreneurs have stood on the shoulders of others. When we work 24/7, someone inevitably must pick up after us. Whether it is the drive through folks who have your coffee ready every morning or the partner who sits by you and says, ‘you can do it’ – never stop saying ‘Thank you – I couldn’t have done it without you.’
- Don’t diminish the career choices of others because they took the traditional path. Just as there is bravery and risk in doing your own thing, there is bravery and risk in supporting another’s vision. Those who did not pick the entrepreneurial path are not less than, nor are they unable to appreciate the challenges faced by those that did. Plus, if everyone was self-employed, who would you hire?
- Don’t diminish other self-starters and entrepreneurs because their model looks different than yours. Not all entrepreneurs are built the same. Some are franchises, some are home businesses, some are resellers, and some never intend on selling their business for $1B to a Fortune 50 company. They are all still entrepreneurs.
- Spend time with a variety of people – not just those who mirror you. A theme in my advice to others, I caution everyone against spending all their time with people who look/talk/think just like them. Sharing values and ideals is a wonderful thing in general, but doesn’t always lead us in the right direction.
- Act like you’ve been there before. Found success? Congratulations. Now, act like you’ve been there before. Be humble. Be respectful. Be grateful. Put your energy into doing it a second, third, or fourth time, not into reminding everyone about ‘that time you won’. Furthermore, one huge success doesn’t imply a pattern. Aim high, but, but don’t compare every win to the ‘big one’.
What do you think? I always enjoy hearing from my readers. Whether you agree, disagree, or have something to add, I encourage you to share your thoughts. Comment below, or, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.