The Fatal Flaw of Many Entrepreneurs (and How to Avoid It)
Business failure can often be traced to one all-too-easy mistake. Take these steps to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
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More often, though, the difficulties that lead to a business closing are internally generated, from unwise decision-making to poor hiring, or lack of cash to products or services that people don't want.
In many cases, these business-killing problems can be traced back to one common mistake: the founder's desire to control everything.
In the dozens of interviews I conducted for my book, everyone from executive coaches to entrepreneurs' spouses mentioned this as a primary ingredient for failure.
Wanting to maintain control of your business may sound like a minor transgression. After all, the business is your baby, built off of your sweat, tears, and financial investment. It seems only reasonable that you should be able to call the shots.
But this assumes that you know everything there is to know about running your business--at every stage. It assumes you have the capacity and capability to do every job. And it assumes you're always right.
Let's face it: those assumptions require some pretty gigantic leaps of faith.
The consequences of stubbornly holding onto every part of the business are also wide-ranging, including but not limited to personal burnout, low employee morale, and recurring mistakes. The harm extends far beyond the entrepreneur to his or her family, colleagues, and the performance of the business itself.
So I'll just give up some control, you say.
For many founders, that's far easier said than done. Letting go of your business requires a healthy dose of humility, courage, and trust in others.
If you want to relinquish some control so you and your venture have the best chance of success, start with these steps:
1. Set your ego aside.
Relying on others doesn't make you less knowledgeable or less capable. In fact, the most successful leaders build strong teams and utilize them well. Holding on to control isn't going to prove anything to anyone; strategically letting go, in contrast, demonstrates confidence and wisdom.
2. Ask for help and feedback.
Not only is it humanly impossible to know everything about running a business, but the closer you are to something, the less clear your thinking will be. If you have business partners or co-workers, bring them into decision-making processes and regularly ask for their input. You could also ask your significant other or a mentor, friend, or coach for their advice. Then make use of their advice.
3. Stop micromanaging and start empowering those around you.
Micromanaging the work of others makes them less efficient, stunts their professional growth, and communicates that you don't believe they are capable of doing their jobs. If you want a proficient team, let them have ownership over their areas of responsibility, even if you don't always agree with what they do or how they do it. This creates great growth opportunities for you and for them.
4. Practice delegating as much as possible.
If you try to do everything, something is bound to slip through the cracks. Hand off tasks to others when you either don't have the skills or the time to do them well. Focus your energy where you can make the most impact on the business--and let your colleagues do the same.
5. Completely unplug at least once a week.
Taking a break from work is important for your health, but it also helps you recognize that the business--and life in general--does continue on without you. Pick at least one day or half-day a week in which you won't check emails or answer phone calls.
Truly releasing control will likely require disciplined practice over a period of time. But the potential benefits--including better work-life balance, professional development, company growth, and new business opportunities--are totally worth it.