When I started my entrepreneurial adventure, I wanted to please everyone. I felt vulnerable and I was sorely lacking in self-confidence. I jeopardized my business and personal relationships on several occasions, and, most importantly, I lost a lot of time and money! You don’t like to disappoint, so you want to please everyone? You must know that you risk losing more than you will earn. Here’s a little feedback of my experience, something that you won’t learn in an entrepreneurship class.
To please or to disappoint: a difficult decision that any entrepreneur will face on several occasions. Better to know it sooner, because it caused me a lot of trouble. And the first people you will need to resist pleasing are: your partners/shareholders…
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Learn to say “no” to your partners
They invest money and/or get involved in the business with you, advise and support you, and make you feel indebted. In order not to harm those relationships that are so important to you, you will be tempted, just like me, to want to please everyone, even change your vision and compromise the financial health of your business. You will put aside your instincts and your intuition and base your actions and decisions on the desire to buy peace and avoid any kind of conflict. Yet, without wanting to invalidate the suggestions or ideas of others, there is a small voice in you that speaks to you and advises against taking steps in this direction… but you do it anyway, to demonstrate to these people that you value their contribution, and not to demotivate or upset them.
Since the creation of my company, I have received countless tips. Some advice may sometimes be relevant and sincere, other times it can be naïve, or not applicable in your context, and other times, the intention is to get something from you. Little by little, you have to learn how to distinguish intentions that are kind to you from intentions meant to benefit others, which are acquired after many disappointments (you will be particularly disappointed to not have trusted your gut). Shareholders have their own financial interests; one must never ignore this fact. You are committed to the sustainability of the business, but they may only want a quick return. Yet, the little voice inside still speaks to you, saying “something is not right”, so you feel even more vulnerable… but you say to yourself: “this is how business is done”, and that in order to be successful, you will have no choice but to take risks. But taking a risk to please others will be entirely at your expense.
When it comes to honest advice that does not fit with your vision, remember three things:
- Nobody knows your business better than you;
- Nobody cherishes your company as much as you do;
- You will always assume the biggest risk.
We often forget that we are not serving shareholders/partners, but rather our business. You should always put the good of the company first, then focus on others. You become an entrepreneur in order to control your destiny, not to be controlled to generate financial gain for others like a puppet. We sometimes forget this when we try to please others. But the truth is that nobody will do things for you. For the sake of tranquility and not to offend my partners, I lost time and took unnecessary risks, at my expense, by taking irrelevant detours. With time, I have learned how to filter different situations and say “no” … more often!
Learn how to disappoint others
People around you will quickly be a source of stress and risks, in various ways. Between those who will ask you to hire them, or hire their cousin who is looking for a job (who has no experience associated with the job description), and those who will ask you why you have not yet exported to Uzbekistan, because it’s apparently a developing market… You have to learn to disappoint others by saying “no”, and your excuses will become shorter and shorter with time!
Your entourage does not always understand what you do on a daily basis, and as long as you don’t generate millions of dollars, they will not take you seriously, or give you the credibility you deserve (after all, if you have managed to start your business and you are now able to live from it, you probably know what you are doing). It’s the Dunning-Kruger effect that comes into play. The more incompetent we are in a specific area, the more:
- We tend to overestimate our level of competence;
- We tend to lose sight of how incompetent we are;
- We lose the ability to recognize those who possess the proper skills.
How many times have I been told: “Don’t worry, if you need me, I can replace you during your maternity leave” … These remarks, although very kind, invalidate my competence and the importance of my function as president of my business. I would never presume to be able to replace anyone in their jobs for a short or extended period of time, without knowing in detail their responsibilities, functions and day-to-day workload. However, I noticed that many people thought they could replace the boss of a small manufacturing business in food processing: I imagine that, in their mind, the role only requires a physical presence, a title and the ability to manage the decision-making power.
Do you know how to export to a country when there are only two or three people in charge of all the administrative functions combined? Do you know what it is like to manage the margins and the production of granola, to respect the quality controls, to manage the distributors’ requests, to communicate with mass distribution retailers? Above all, do you think you can easily impose your leadership in a small company, both internally and externally? Do you really believe that we only need to press a button to make decisions, and that we don’t have to get involved in everyday situations? I can assure you; the answer is “no”, and I learned it once again to my detriment.
Do you think that you will be able to relax a little when you become well-known, or when your company will reach 5, 10 or 15 years of existence? Well, no. The bigger the cake gets. the more people want to have a piece. Then, you will have to disappoint them and say “no”. In the end, you will not have a break, you cannot cut yourself off from your business with your entourage, and there will always be surprising tips to dodge…