Alter Your Ego, Alter Your Business

Last month’s article was all about scalability and bottlenecks, and after having touched on the issue of ego, let’s delve deeper as we discuss this in greater detail this month.

The plain fact is, most entrepreneurs tend to have fairly sizeable egos (it’s kind of a prerequisite for believing that you have the ability to successfully start your own business, and to persevere through all the problems and failures). But that ego, while being a key strength in getting started, can also be the critical weakness that prevents them from true success.

They have no difficulty at all in delegating tasks to others. In fact, they seek very specifically to identify every area in which they can delegate.

Take the entrepreneur who is proud of their work ethic. “I believe that I should not ask my employees to do anything that I am not willing to do myself. I am the first one to arrive at work, and the last one to leave. No task is too menial for me, I’d prefer to do it myself and be sure that it is done right.” Now, I’m not disrespecting this attitude—it is in a certain context, quite admirable. The thing is, that “context” is the context of “a small business that is not growing.” Because as a business grows, there are more and more things to do, and the person who adheres to this ethic ends up not only becoming dreadfully overworked, but also the biggest limitation to their company’s growth.

Don’t take my word for it. Look at any of the truly successful entrepreneurs out there, who’ve built large, successful businesses. I’ll cite a few obvious examples—Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos. Every one of them has made it quite explicitly clear that they deliberately avoid all tasks that they consider it is unnecessary for them to do themselves. Zuckerberg famously wears the same style of clothes, so that he doesn’t waste time figuring out what to wear. Nobody could accuse any of these men of not having a good work ethic. And yet, they have no difficulty at all in delegating tasks to others. In fact, they seek very specifically to identify every area in which they can delegate.

Or take the entrepreneur who wants to do everything. They have a dozen ideas, and they want to do all of them at once! Their chances of being successful are so much greater (and they can make so much more money!) if they are doing a lot of different things. However, in all but the rarest of situations, the opposite is true, especially when they are a smaller company. Their resources are limited. And there are a finite number of hours in the week. What happens is that instead of doing one thing very well, they do a whole bunch of mediocre jobs.

There is a fundamental problem with the mindset here. When starting their first business, they won’t do it until they have enough money and resources to run that company. But when adding new things to their business, they no longer think the same way. What you should be doing is to focus on one thing, and do it really well. Make that successful. When that business is making enough money to fully support a new venture, that is the time to start branching out.

Third is the “Nobody else can do it” entrepreneur. This may be due to an ego that makes them believe that nobody else is capable of doing what they do; or it may be due to a need to feel in control of everything that is happening; or it may be that they feel that others cannot do it as well as them, so it is easier to just do it themselves.

If you fall into the first category, I have bad news for you. Not only are there others who can do what you do, but they can probably do it better…if you’ll give them the opportunity to learn how to do it. If you are in the second category, you’re either going to have to learn to give up control, or accept that you can never grow your business beyond a certain point. And if you are in the third category, you need to change your perspective. You’ve got to where you are today by learning, and along the way you made a lot of mistakes. Someone else learning to do what you do will also make mistakes…but like you, they can learn, and improve.

So…are you able to get over your ego, and let your company grow?