Are You Causing Entrepreneurial Train Wrecks in Your Business?

As entrepreneurs, sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. We can get easily bored, leaving us with a need to “stir things up” to make things exciting again. For me, this stems from an intense desire to make things better. Whatever the motivation, this need for change and excitement can cause a crisis in our business.

How to Create A Crisis: A True Story

Let me share this “train wreck” of a true story to demonstrate. Let’s call him Tom to protect his identity.

Tom had been away from his business for about 6 months. His team, led by two managers, did amazing work while he was away and the business was performing quite admirably. However, upon his return to “active duty,” Tom felt he needed to re-establish control, put his “stamp” back on the business. He started making changes instantly and quite dramatically without consulting his managers. In his words, “I am the owner. I feel I should be able to make changes as I see fit.”

Throw Caution To The Wind

I guess he was right. As the owner, he DOES have the ability to make any changes he sees fit. The net result? Both managers quit on the same day, leaving Tom high and dry.

They were the primary leaders, his key employees, but they felt extremely undervalued and unappreciated due to his erratic behaviour. Why would they stick around if he didn’t respect them? His decisions showed an absolute disregard for the work they had done while he was away.

Tom said he was grateful, but he just didn’t show it with his actions. It nearly cost him his business.

While this is a dramatic example of an entrepreneur creating their own crisis, Tom is not alone. I have seen it many times. Heck, I’ve even been guilty of it myself; thankfully, not to this degree.

It is this unwavering “throw-caution-to-the-wind” spirit that enables us to start a business out of nothing (when we are at our best), but it is that same spirit that can start a forest fire over something very trivial (when we are not at our best). Make no mistake, Tom created a forest fire out of nothing and it hurt him badly.

Why Do Entrepreneurs Do This?

And more importantly, how do we protect our business from ourselves when we are not at our best?

Like most entrepreneurs, we have natural instincts that are different from others. We LOVE to adapt and change things. Same = boring to us. Even if we did something yesterday and it worked, let’s try it a different way today to see if we can solve the problem another way. This is fun for us, in a twisted sort of way. It fuels our need for creativity and adaptation.

We don’t need to feel bad that we are this way. We do need to understand who we truly are at our core, embracing it for good or bad, and be vulnerable enough to recognize that it is a gift and a curse and be comfortable with that. We don’t want to lose our adaptive instinct, but we do need to be able to manage it effectively or it can cause us an immense amount of pain.

How Can We Avoid Creating Our Own Crises?

Here are 5 ways, as entrepreneurs, we can harness our instincts and avoid creating our own crisis:

  1. Build self-awareness. Your humble awareness of who you truly are allows you to own your instincts and the consequences of your actions. This will help you identify where these impulses are coming from and enable you to pull yourself back, as necessary.
  2. Trust and respect your employees and their efforts. Trust and respect are the foundation of any good relationship. Everyone has their own brilliance and pace, so be patient and listen. Others may not move as quickly as we want them to or see things in the same way as us, and that is okay. Ask for their advice and input. Listen to them completely and let them know their perspective has been heard. Be vulnerable and ask why they did something a certain way and be willing to vary from our plan. Give employees credit where credit is due. Build a solid relationship.
  3. Have a buffer. Find a realistic, logical person that you trust, who is good at putting things in perspective, making decisions, and then executing in order to make it happen. This effectively creates a buffer between our (sometimes great, sometimes goofy) ideas and our teammates. Your team then only needs to work on the great ideas. In the EOS® world, these roles are called the Visionary (the entrepreneur) and Integrator (the buffer).
  4. Focus your energy. Entrepreneurs have a need to take action on something. It is a button inside us that needs to be pushed. So focus on the real issues, not the trivial ones that might be exciting that day. Use your Vision/Traction Organizer™ daily to stay focused on your long-term plan. Ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time, right now, to get us closer to our big goal?” If the answer is no, walk away. Let it go.
  5. Create an Issues List and block time every week to solve the list with your team. If you see something that you’d like to improve or change, put it on this Issues List rather than address it right away. A few days of pause can shift perspective significantly; what once seemed important may no longer be important a few days later. Trust that the issue won’t be forgotten because it is on the list and will be dealt with in priority order during your weekly Leadership Team Meeting.

Being an entrepreneur is a ton of fun. It can also be very painful, just ask Tom. After his train wreck, he had to regrow his business without his two key employees. But he did it. It was difficult and he learned some valuable lessons along the way. Growing ourselves into an amazing leader is a journey and it sometimes takes hard lessons to learn how we need to grow.

Knowing our instincts, embracing them and managing them is both an art and a science. We can work toward reducing the number of crises that we create when we are bored. We’ll likely never get it perfect but our business will benefit greatly if we can channel our gift for adaptation into areas that truly need it.

Next Steps


This post originally appeared on the Strategic Traction Blog on November 16, 2017.

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