The most successful entrepreneurs figure out early on that they are not alone, that they are not infallible and that they need people better than themselves to do certain things. However, we often have this vision of the entrepreneur as a superman or woman, slaying all the obstacles on the path to greatness all on their own. I’m here to tell you that image is simply not true. If it were, we would only be building companies of one and the term solopreneur would be all the rage.
Entrepreneurs do have good ideas and often strategies for putting their plans into motion. They often have a unique or different vision that others have not imagined yet but what they cannot do is single-handedly make it happen. I’m reminded of this as I start the new class of Seattle Emerging Leaders at the SBA. These are businesses who have been operating for at least 3 years but at some point, became stuck and could not get past a certain stage of development. As this year’s class introduced themselves to one another, two very similar narratives emerged. First, they were greatly relieved to be with other entrepreneurs like themselves who felt more or less alone. Realizing that everyone in the class was having the same experience was an eye opener for all of them. Secondly, they realized that part of their struggle was that while working in the business they rarely, if ever, had time to work on it so accountability for that went out the window with the pressing challenges of each day.
Not surprisingly, when I led CEO groups for Vistage these were also the two top reasons entrepreneurs joined. The group setting provided accountability and relief from isolation. While each business is unique how to run a business well is not. Sure, there are certain things that service businesses have that retail does not but the growth challenges, people challenges, money challenges and operational challenges are usually identical.
While entrepreneurs should be lauded for taking up the challenge of creating a start-up, the faster they realize they need a team to achieve the vision, the faster they will be on a road to success. 9 out of 10 businesses that start are gone by year 3. These are not good odds. So why do entrepreneurs think they can “do it all?” Usually, it has to do with a reluctance to admit to others that they don’t know it all or a reluctance to ask for help. Entrepreneurship is the school of hard knocks, you are building the plane while already in the air. There is no substitute for this.
Ironically, the millennials are uniquely positioned to become great entrepreneurs. Why? They work in groups, they are highly collaborative and don’t believe that asking for help has a negative connotation. They routinely go to others who have expertise for assistance, gather the best ideas and then decide how to proceed. Their collaborative nature sets them up for success as entrepreneurs.
Next time you think you have to “do it all,” pause and look around. The answer to your question will be there in the form of a team, an advisor or a peer. Leaning on others will get you through.