This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph's, "Don’t Do It the Hard Way.” Read the book.
Brian was chairing again at the e2eForum meeting, but he had a look of concern; unusual for him, as he was normally confident and upbeat.
Gesturing to the flipchart, he said, “These are the issues that are starting to wear me down. Mostly because my two senior managers in sales and project management are starting to tell me I’m not entrepreneurial enough.”
We looked at his list of discussion points.
He added, “Uncle Ralph, when we were working together on my original business plan, you warned me about the risks of being too entrepreneurial. These are the points I remember and I thought we could discuss them today in the e2eForum.”
“But they all look good to me,” said Stan, “my father was always pushing me to do those things.”
“It all comes down to balance,” I said, “Balancing the entrepreneurial instincts and drive with the well thought-out strategic planning and analysis that help you make good decisions.”
“Let’s go through the list,” said Vivian, keeping us on the agenda.
I opened by explaining my perception that although certain characteristics of entrepreneurs are necessary for them to be successful; too entrepreneurial can be a problem for the business.
I went over the points that I had previously discussed with Brian while we worked on his business plan and he was bubbling with entrepreneurial enthusiasm. My intent was not to dampen his energy and enthusiasm, but to provide some perspective on the risks.
It can be hard to resist every potential sale or customer opportunity that is presented to you, but the successful entrepreneur builds the business by remaining focused on the strategic objectives and the agreed action plan to get there. Time and resources are easily wasted on chasing rainbows, if you are not sufficiently selective and insist on sticking to the plan.
Both current customers and new prospects will continuously presented unexpected opportunities. If they are asking for it, you should do it, right? Well, maybe not. Can you do it well? Profitably? Better than the available alternatives?
Your Go/No-Go decision should be based on two strategic requirements: leveraging your competitive strengths and building long term business value. Those are the two selection criteria that will keep you focused.
It is important to be optimistic and think positively, but a little paranoia may be wise too. Remember the chairman of Intel, Andy Grove, titled his memoir Only the Paranoid Survive. Mark Zuckerberg has been credited with the same mentality in driving the astonishing growth of Facebook. Keep a wary eye on the market and monitor your business performance constantly. No news is not good news; you’re flying blindfolded. Don’t miss or ignore the warning signs of bumpy weather approaching.
Don’t expect too much too soon. It seems like everything takes longer than it should and most entrepreneurs have high expectations of themselves and their team. But don’t keep changing the plan or trying something new just because you’re not there yet. If you are making progress and the end goal is still valid, don’t give up too soon.
Entrepreneurs usually have great confidence in their instincts and their intelligence. The mistake is to neglect or ignore market feedback and analysis of the facts. Also being action-oriented, the tendency is to react and ‘fire’ before the ‘ready, aim’ stages are complete. Painful surprises can result. Temper your self-confidence with a little humility – ask for help and get the input from others before you rush ahead.
Entrepreneurs are expected to be decisive and demonstrate leadership. But both can be overdone – deciding too quickly and providing too much direction so that employee input, initiative and creativity are stifled.
Often the decision does not need to be made quickly and the implementation will go more smoothly if time is taken to assess the feedback and answer the questions before commitments are made and the wheels are put in motion.
Back in the `80`s, Japanese management style was the model of success and one of their recognized tactics was to talk and talk and talk about the solution before implementing it. The result was much smoother and faster implementation than for the stereotypical macho decisive American manager who decides quickly and starts implementation without sufficient prior consultation with those affected.
Many entrepreneurs are driven to ‘Do it my way’; that’s why they love running their own business. But sometimes alternatives have not even been considered and a better way exists. The creative solution may require improvising and learning on the fly, but maybe the best solution is sticking with what works, until it stops working.
Another mistake is staying too long with a solution and neglecting to evolve and grow by optimizing systems and processes and installing the best practices and latest technologies available in the industry. Not everything needs a creative new solution unique to your business. Maybe you’re not that special.
I summarized for the group. “Those were the points I had discussed with Brian and my assessment of the risks of being too entrepreneurial; all these mistakes can lead to serious difficulties for the business.”
Dave added, “It does help to keep in mind that some careful analysis and planning are important to offset the tendency to make decisions based on instinct and past experience. I’ve had to make some quick decisions recently that I’m now going back to and will take another look at.
“See you all in a month and we can talk about what changes we have made to avoid being too entrepreneurial.”
Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson
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