I want to tell you about an entrepreneur who had an amazing career.
He was a real self-starter, shoveled snow as a boy, sold greeting cards door-to-door and even gave speeches to young people about being successful. It didn’t stop there, he went on to build a business and sold it for millions.
Later as a seasoned businessman and executive he led an Internet company from zero to several million in sales and then all of sudden, things went bad. Sales dropped off, management began to turn on him and investors were wary of the wonder boy CEO.
While in this case there was a very specific cause for this CEO’s demise but sometimes no one notices the missed appointments or the distant look on his face during important meetings.
Maybe you know someone like that. What possibly could be the reason?
The reason isn’t always obvious, in fact, it might not be something as dramatic as a life change or sudden event. It might have started years ago and just progressed over time. Maybe no one really notices and yet if that’s you, this might be helpful.
Entrepreneur’s Disease – In essence, it means that as an entrepreneur you can’t delegate. You think you can do it faster and better alone and have no time to waste.
Startup Guy – This is the one-man army, the solo-preneur, the chief cook, and bottle washer, yes. “It’s all me, all the time.” Yes, you have to be the startup guy and you should but even you can afford to get some leverage. Getting help is easy and much less expensive than you think.
Don’t Know – You are smart, capable and experienced but you just don’t know what to do. The company is in a slump and you have to fix it so you roll up your sleeves and try lots of different strategies. Note: Good time to get some help.
Don’t Trust – You have staff, they are entrenched and they are good at what they do, but times have changed and they don’t show the enthusiasm and drive they once had. Now, you don’t trust them and you’d rather do the important tasks yourself (See Entrepreneur’s Disease.) The other possibility is that your team has lost trust in you. For whatever reason, this does happen and can be fixed.
Don’t Care – This is a hard one to admit because it means facing the truth. No one can read your mind, but maybe you really don’t care that much anymore. The end game for you is your stock options, equity, bonus or your next gig. Self-talk like: “If I can hold out here for the next 18 months I am home free and can move on.” This is a dangerous condition for you personally even if on the surface no one can tell. You need to fix this quickly so you can live without regret and guilt. Do the right thing in the right way, you will be respected for it in the end.
Can’t Cope – Tough times, right? Stress is high and you “should” be able to handle it. So you tell yourself. Stress causes poor choices and can severely affect your happiness, quality of life and physical health. This is a dangerous condition and can be fixed. Keep reading, there’s a solution below.
Distracted – This is a variance on one or many of the above symptoms, maybe a divorce or a wayward teenager, an elderly family member, you get it I’m sure. In severe cases, it can render you a zombie. Trust me, I know.
Some Possible Solutions you May Find Useful.
You have to be honest with yourself, find out which of the above reasons you hold to be most true. If none of the above, then determine what that is and admit you are overwhelmed. All problems started somewhere. Go back and look at the problems you face and ask how you got here.
I wrote a blog post on how to fix any problem, by applying a simple formula and finding out where the problem started. See if you can spot it, get some help if you can’t and start to fix it.
The basis of any solution is to identify the problem, which is why I tried to create categories of areas where you might find yourself in general terms. These are some steps and some resources that can help.
If you are Startup Guy or Don’t Know then you are in the right place and you can fix this quickly.
I want to provide some references, which I believe will be useful.
Crossing The Chasm – Geoffrey Moore – Moore didn’t have the internet, not even email but establishes timeless marketing strategies that are cheap, simple and oh so powerful. One of the most powerful marketing books I’ve ever read came 20 years ago and it was written at a time when every chapter in the book applied to me. Get it and inhale its wisdom, make it your bible and you will find ways to jumpstart sales.
SEO Made Simple (third edition) – Michael Fleishner – Provides you with the base information you need to start to understand and then implement basic SEO strategies. The book is practical and tells you exactly what to do. If you are an SEO expert, this is not for you. Years ago, this book provided me with a foundational understanding of what SEO was and how to get some SEO work done, simply and by myself. Note: Major changes in SEO have caused many SEO shops to close down but the best are now focusing on local results. This book explains the basic principles.
The Ultimate Sales Machine. – Chet Holmes – Foundational and critical information about what it takes to build, run and grow a business. Yes, I am biased but without a doubt the most education you can get for $11 on selling, hiring and structuring a business. The chapter on time management alone is worth the price of admission. If you skip this book you might be ignoring one of the best books on innovative management, selling, marketing and hiring ever written.
If you have Entrepreneur’s Disease or Don’t Trust, you really need to let go.
Yes, I know it’s not as easy as it sounds. Here are some things to consider. I learned about “letting go” from Hale Dwoskin, the creator of The Sedona Method. Hale teaches by letting go you can release unwanted emotions and stress. I highly recommend this book and his system, it handles the emotional side of letting go.
Some thoughts on how to handle the organizational part. Start with something you want to pass to another individual but are afraid they will screw it up or take too much time.
- Pick something relatively simple.
- Make a list of each step.
- Make a list of all materials or contacts required.
- Describe the exact outcome you are looking for.
- Estimate how much time it should take to learn this.
- Estimate how long it should take to complete the task once the skill is acquired.
The Hard Part
Now sit with the individual and show them the list. Have them read it and ask any questions they need. Then ask them to start using the instructions you left for them while you (painfully) sit at their side completely silent. Let them fail and don’t correct until they ask you to. Then help. Improve your directions as they come up with questions. This also serves you as documentation for how the job is done.
- Get frustrated and do it for them.
- Go further than answering the question they asked.
- Be unkind, condescending or impatient.
- Encourage them to continue.
- Let them think it through.
- Ask questions as needed but answer only the question they asked.
- Have patience knowing that once they have been taught, you are mostly free of that task.
I can tell you from experience, this cures Entrepreneur’s Disease because you are training someone who can start to handle work for you. It also builds trust going both ways and teaches that things can be delegated and run smoothly as a result.
If you Don’t Trust because you think there’s an ethical issue in your company; people are not being honest with you or the management team, there’s a dissonance between members of the executive team, infighting, friction or competitive issues, you must get this dealt with ASAP.
Here are some suggestions for approaching this problem. I know this is hard and may cause more problems short term, similar to spraying the hornet’s next but it’s got to be done or the company will self-destruct under the weight of indecision, mistrust or worse.
Divide and Conquer
You are the CEO. Sit down one-on-one with each member of your team and let them know you are not going to stand by while this environment of mistrust continues. Explain that you will stop it now and do whatever it takes. This sets the stage for a serious conversation.
As you begin, find out what they think the problem is and LISTEN. Don’t react, allow that person to talk and explain what they see, how they feel. Look for these characteristics in your conversation with this person.
Are they negative about the company or you? Get the reason why – don’t address it yet.
Does there appear to be a conflict between two team members? Understand the conflict as best you can.
Are they protecting themselves by blaming others? Listen carefully, there may be valuable information in what they are saying.
Ask open-ended questions about their experiences, their feelings about the company and the team. They will reveal themselves in these conversations if you are patient and listen. Try not to make any commitments or show favor to any one argument, just listen. Thank them and move on to the next person and don’t stop until you’ve spoken to everyone on the executive team. Small companies should include EVERYONE since you are all decision makers and getting along now is crucial.
The 3rd Party Rule.
I watched Tony Robbins apply this with precision between two team members to get to the root of the problem and resolve it. In a nutshell, this is the 3rd party rule.
Whenever there is a conflict, it’s almost always a 3rd hidden party that is causing the problem. Someone is whispering into the ear of one of the conflicted parties. Until you find the 3rd party you won’t be able to resolve the conflict because the 3rd party will continuously interfere.
You have to root out the 3rd party step by step. Questions about generalities or accusations are a good place to start. “Who told you that?” or “Where did you hear that from?” are the type of questions that get close to the source of conflict. Don’t give up, you’ll always find a 3rd party. As soon as you find that person, the conflict generally disappears because their secret agenda gets exposed. When you see it work the 1st time, it’s magic.
Finally, the worst type of trust problem will be theft, dishonesty or compromise the company in some sinister way. Dig deep, find it and talk to your lawyer, cut out the cancer and move on.
The bottom line is this. Learn the skills it takes to be the best CEO you can and your business will prosper.
Become the CEO you want to be by educating yourself, by growing your skills and by getting great advice from people who have done it before. There’s a lot of us out there, find someone who is a personality fit and make the connection.
Your family will thank you for it!