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Six Reasons Entrepreneurs Suck

By: Guest | October 20, 2011 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Marc Girolimetti.

I’ve been blessed by living among entrepreneurs my entire life. I’ve learned a lot from them and they inspired me to drop the dreams of being the next Jacques Cousteau and head straight to Babson College, which has been named the #1 undergraduate program for entrepreneurship for 15 consecutive years.

As a result of choosing a life of working within and founding a couple of start-ups, I get to dabble in adjunct teaching of entrepreneurship at Boston University.

As a result I can say one thing: Entrepreneurs suck.

I’m addicted to start-ups, but it’s begun to take its toll on me emotionally and financially. “One more hit,” I say. “Then I’ll quit.”  That’s because no illegal narcotic can give you a better rush and ruin your life more deeply than choosing to be an entrepreneur.

1. Entrepreneurs think they have the most beautiful baby on the block.

No parent will tell you they have an ugly kid and no entrepreneur will tell you their product sucks. It’s that stubborn belief in the quality of the product and unwillingness to be told otherwise that will kill the company before it gets out of the gate.

Eric Reis, the Lean Start-Up guy, says, to summarize, get the product out there with some good features, but let the market determine where it should go and release updates accordingly.

Is the entrepreneur OK with a full-version version of the product not existing?

2. Entrepreneurs are terrible communicators.

More often than not, an entrepreneur has a vision in their head, but is incapable of clearly communicating it to anyone. As a result, two things tend to occur: They surround themselves with “yes men” who agree to anything without putting any thought into it or they bring on board critical thinkers, but create a poor working relationship because the critical thinker needs most, if not all, of the information before putting a strategy forth.

3. Entrepreneurs are liars.

Part of this is a result of needing to compete in a very noisy environment, especially when searching for partners, investors, advisors, and/or board members. Where it becomes a major problem, is when the lie gains traction and eventually becomes the truth. The result can have drastic effects on the business. Investors or vendors can feel duped. Customers and partners will walk away. Most importantly, reputations can be tarnished in the long-term.

4. Entrepreneurs take things too personally and can’t handle negativity.

Because they are so engrossed in the vision, entrepreneurs tend to shift themselves into an alternate reality where negativity doesn’t exist. If handed criticism or a “no” from a customer, the entrepreneur tends to disavow any knowledge of it and moves forward without processing why. This goes back to the ugly baby issue, but every business has tough times and the alternate reality is just another form of hiding from problems.

5. Entrepreneurs are impatient.

A start-up is small and moves swiftly. Decisions can be made in an instant. Strategy can be implemented with minimal investment. The challenge arises when others, such as customers, investors or partners, are brought into the mix. When an entrepreneur interacts with them, they are the #1 priority. To the customer, investor or partner, the entrepreneur is more likely priority #157. Entrepreneurs are in such a hurry they can’t see the value of what a little patience can bring.

6. Entrepreneurs fear success.

Many entrepreneurs can take a start-up to a certain point. Some complete the product development, but can’t generate revenue. Some generate revenue, but don’t know how to grow the business. Success usually means an entrepreneur has to give up a significant amount of control. The baby is growing up and needs to be nurtured by others. The fear of losing control as a result of success, is probably the number one killer of a growing start-up.

Entrepreneurs, when it boils down to it, only trust themselves and they’ll make every excuse in the book to justify retaining power. This is why a promising young company, generating $10 million annually, can disappear in an instant.

I have experienced more character flaws, but these are the core issues that every investor, partner, customer, and vendor need to be concerned about. I have nothing but respect for entrepreneurs. I love helping and sharing my myriad of experiences with them, but they are, more often than not, humans at their worst and many can be harmed as a result.

Marc Girolimetti is an award-winning, 16-year veteran of the interactive agency and software worlds. He’s founded two companies and been part of four more start-ups covering news, entertainment, advertising and gaming. A graduate of Babson College, Marc lives in the Boston area and believes pinball is the source of world peace.

81 comments
Stephanie Barnes
Stephanie Barnes

You had a great list.It's nice to meet you here.I'm looking forward to meet you in person.Thank you for guesting.You did it well.

Latest blog post: 1300 numbers

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

This is a very specific comment, but one of my largest pet peeves that can fall under point 3 is when an entrepreneur says everything under the sun when they're out of money (revenue or funding-wise) except the one line everyone should hear, which is "I'm out of money". A great entrepreneur accepts it as a challenge and sets a limit on how far they can run without it as well as works their tail off trying to generate it. Many, many, many, many take the "Oh everything is fine route". It reminds me of parents who stay married too long, because they're doing it "for the kids".

Author's note: I'm in a heavy metaphor phase this morning. I blame the crazy coffee I drank.

RSA Course
RSA Course

Good line "The fear of losing control as a result of success, is probably the number one killer of a growing start-up." It can see what you mean by impatience also being a problem. Visionaries are not usually detail people and need good detail people in their team.

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joecburke
joecburke

Well, no one seems to have done it yet (no, I did NOT read all the posts...I'm an impatient entrepreneur), but here's some responses to each fault:

1) Since the idea is new and maybe even the market is new, the E often HAS to be "over-positive" in order to keep himself and others motivated and moving forward. That said, the best thing to do is find someone who the E can trust and tolerate to tell them the unvarnished truth. Best is at least 3-4 of these "friends". Assumptions have to be questioned in order to gauge the real risk involved from time to time.

2) E's are "pushers", like the very young Steve Jobs who screamed and raged at people and made unreasonable demands of employees. This tends to compromise their communication abilities. But even Steve J. grew up and turned his self-belief into outward positiveness in his classic product demos. You can too.

3) I give E's some benefit of the doubt here, but draw a line. Yes, I've seen them lie, mostly I've seen them just stretch the truth. But there are small lies and big ones. Bernie Madoff was a very, very big lie. Know the difference, no excuse, and there will be no forgiveness if you cross the line.

4) E's aren't E's without big egos, the work is too hard if you also doubt yourself. But don't confuse big with strong. Because, it's true, some E's become E's because they deny their weaknesses and want to order other people around. If you are such a person, you'll probably be in permanent denial and nothing said here will change your warped little brain. But for the rest of you, go follow my advice in #1, find someone you can trust, and let them tell you the truth, and then do something honest with it about growing up.

5) Yes. And having been an E and also served with E's in many situations, I accept impatience. If you don't like this, startups are not for you.

6) I think this one may be mislabeled. More appropriate might be "E's don't know their own limitations.", which is true, they often become E's and discover their strengths and their weaknesses while striving too hard and demanding too much. I don't think they fear success, if anything I think some E's crave it too much, and act like nothing else matters. After 20 years of startups and turnarounds (and a family with kids) I can tell you that MANY E's I've known, plus me, will say that a LOT of stuff matters more than the success of your venture. Again, you need somebody you trust to kick you in the A** and keep you real.

I recommend reading Patrick Lencioni's books on leadership, teams and management, as several of them relate directly to this topic.

Joe C Burke

MSGiro
MSGiro

@TheaHaigh Thank you. I was expecting more push back, but I'll take complements too. It's Friday. :-)

MSGiro
MSGiro

@stefsealy So am I. Problem is there are probably 131 in total. ;-)

gbegin
gbegin

@MSGiro this entrepreneur was passionate his daughter wasn't ugly at birth. But looking back at pictures, dam was I wrong. All babies are.

gbegin
gbegin

@MSGiro this strange bird sees them all as positives. Those 6 traits are due to passion and loving what one does. (1 of 2)

DanielMWood
DanielMWood

Great article!I do think all those problems are very common among entrepreneurs, but there is a lot that can be done.Studying marketing teaches a lot quickly and developing an elevator pitch forces entrepreneurs to communicate.Taking a step back from your projects and seeing the negative is harder to teach but is possible to learn, if you are willing to.

PatrickStrother
PatrickStrother

Not sure I can relate to number 2. I have known a lot of entrepreneurs over the years. I actually cannot think of one that was a terrible communicator. Most of them were actually pretty good and many were outstanding.

John Fitzgerald
John Fitzgerald

Nice post. I eagerly await the follow-up "Six Reasons MBAs Suck."

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Marc love your post. I will bring a different angle since not only am I a current struggling Entrepreneur but also in Marketing/Advertising. I used to want to be the Professional Manager hired to bring a start up to the next level...then wound up somehow in Advertising and blammo...it is a long road and I see a lot of my struggles in your post.

But my comment is just on one point. The ugly baby issue.Focusing just on consumer products, many companies with deep pockets R&D new products all the time. In total so many new products get launched each year. 9 out of 10 don't make it past the first year. Hell the HP Tablet made it less than 6 weeks!

How can this happen? Product development teams and market researchers are Entreprenuers inside companies. They try to develop new sources of revenue. They do research, testing, focus groups, have people try stuff. And then they say smugly 'Got a winner'. When in reality they should say '10% chance of winning' Same with new business the numbers on how many last 1 year, 2 years etc are daunting. And it is almost always the ugly baby syndrome.

You are dying to open a Bistro and have the area in mind and eventually the location you choose isn't the best but 'My Bistro will be so amazing it will compel people to make that stupid left turn then cross 4 lanes and make a u-turn into my parking lot' Uhm...ok. Can that be true? Yep. But you just handicapped your chances but guess what...that baby is beautiful!

Raj-PB
Raj-PB

I agree with the point which says they are surrounded by 'yes' men. I wonder why such inflated ego? And they do lie, yes! But not so much we think they do. About having the most beautiful baby, what else can I say - it was nailed perfectly by you!

jonbuscall
jonbuscall

#5 could apply to anyone in business. Everyone I meet wants the sale yesterday, the new website last week, the social media tool to beat everyone else at least a year before any one else gets it.

Latest blog post: Jon Buscall

Liz
Liz

Can we change the title to "Entrepreneurs and SM Gurus Suck?" Nice post, Marc.

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

Um...after pondering these, I have decided I have issues with many of them.

1. I totally agree with. Without that, you can't sell it.

2. They can't be terrible communicators and be successful. They gist of successful entrepreneurial ventures is the the telling of the story, communication of the vision through the taxed and limited resources you do have access to, and the ability to motivate others to take risks and power through.

3. i wouldn't say they are liars ALL the time. Maybe "optimists." You lie too long, the venture fails. Really important to see reality here.

4. They should take things personally, they care! It's their baby! See #1. BUT...negative feedback is essential to growth in new ventures. It is the essence of bucking trends and innovating. If they are smart, however, successful entrepreneurs will plow all that feedback into positive steps towards improvement, if said feedback makes sense.

5. Amen. That's what drives them. Fail fast baby!!

6. Don't agree with this one. They do fear mediocrity though. In all my startups, perfection has persistently impeded the good, often with disastrous results. Only when we got out there, tried stuff, failed, and iterated, did we progress. I do agree that not everyone is cut out for all aspects of startups. Vision guys don't always make good operational people, for example. Sales guys rarely transition successfully to product development. The right roles for the right guys are crucial.

What they ALL share is PRIDE. And you know what that cometh before...

abarcelos
abarcelos

These are very common. I've worked for entrepreneurs like this, they're unbearable, ha ha kidding. Actually, they stand in the way of their own success. It's very personal to them, like a child, which is why it's hard for most to let go. So they stay small and experience very little growth. Remember that Apple, IBM, HP, etc. were all entrepreneurs, but they realized they couldn't go at it alone, and were humble (don't know if that's the right word) enough to realize they had many weaknesses and therefore needed others to step in. Takes strength, trust, and risk, which is why most entrepreneurs never want to go there. I know a few like this.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

I'm not sure where to start. I am an entrepreneur. I'm crazy enough to be starting a second business right now, while growing the first business and writing a book. I see a lot of this in myself. But I also think it's a gross generalization. Are you all six of these things? How would you feel if someone said them about you?

Oh who am I kidding? I just re-read the six things and you're right. I'm all of them. I work really hard on accepting negative criticism, on allowing the market to determine features, on being patient, and on trusting people to do their jobs. But I have to work really hard at those things. I'm aware of them and it's easy to do when I'm fresh and strong-minded. But when I'm overly tired, I go back into being impatient and needing control. After all...who does anything as well as we do?

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

Sometimes it's detail people and other times it's big picture people. I'm very guilty myself about being so in love with the baby that all you can think about is the baby and you talk incessantly about the baby and make an overabundance of Facebook status updates about the baby, but then I forget that the baby needs to let go and be set free, otherwise it won't have a complete life.

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

@joecburke So awesome to see you reading this Joe. As one of my self-anointed business mentors I love when you counter what I say, but this line "you need somebody you trust to kick you in the A** and keep you real." is exactly why you and I click.

TheaHaigh
TheaHaigh

@MSGiro I think it was a well written, bold and accurate post! No push back here!

MSGiro
MSGiro

@gbegin what they heck are they teaching at my alma mater these days? Get Spinelli on the phone. Now!!!

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

@DanielMWood internal communication is where I was trying to focus (Damn you word limit!), where many times the founding entrepreneur has the entire vision in his/her head, but cannot clearly articulate it to those who are responsible for making it into a reality. Worse, the "Yes Men" come into play when the entrepreneur doesn't want to be challenged by answering questions when that vision needs clarity.

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

@HowieG Ha, you just hit on two of my pet peeves.

1. Groups inside of large corporations who say "We act like a start-up". It's such a BS line, because they are operating within the realm of "new" but from the comfort of piles of money. Rarely do you see these groups act with desperation and the passion required to do amazing things.

2. The Corner Store Syndrome. Ever notice how every town has a convenience store that continually turns over ownership year after year and each time the new owner says "This neighborhood needs a store like this and I'm going to do things differently"? The blind faith that things will change this time, rather the fact the area doesn't support that type of business, is mind boggling.

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

@Raj-PB the "yes" men strategy has always killed me. It's a sign of weakness and very few challenge it, especially in a corporate setting.

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

@jonbuscall impatience is a major problem across the board these days, but when Google is doing a deal with Vistaprint, for example, both parties want to succeed, but they aren't sweating the deal by being in a rush to get it done. Start-ups, especially those that may take a major leap forward by cutting a deal with a significant partner (many times with investment dollars on the line), can get so giddy that they don't let he deal play out, jump the gun and blow it up. It's the business equivalent of dating and not putting the time into courtship and going straight to "So when do we sleep with each other?"

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

@Liz ahhhh the poor SM gurus. They are taking quite the beating these days.

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

@rustyspeidel thanks for jumping in. A lot of what you say focuses on successful entrepreneurs, which as we both know, is a small subset of entrepreneurs, with failed or mediocre being the largest. I've worked with plenty of mediocre entrepreneurs, who have generated millions of dollars and employed many people, but when it came time to turn the corner and make the key decisions to turn modest revenue into extreme, major implosions resulted. It wasn't arrogance that caused that, but rather fear. It was the fear of having to give up a fair amount, in order to succeed, among other reasons.

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

@abarcelos that's been my biggest challenge over the last few years. I've been involved with a couple of ventures that were a mere few wise decisions away from overwhelming success, but the inability for some to let go stonewalled all of it.

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

@ginidietrich I'm glad you re-read it, not because you said that I'm right, but rather you took advantage of performing a self-assessment and ended up being honest with yourself. When I say entrepreneurs are liars, they lie to themselves more than anyone else.

gbegin
gbegin

@MSGiro he was here last Friday night! Inducted into Alumni Entrepreneur Hall of Fame

MSGiro
MSGiro

@gbegin I know. I was invited, but could not attend. #SadTrumpet

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

I feel like every entrepreneur needs two things.

1. If you're new to the game you need Start-Up Daycare. Some place or someone who can nurture you through the process, keep you stimulated and help you grow.

2. For a more experienced entrepreneur you need a Start-Up Shrink. An objective person that you trust, who operates in truths and will listen contently, but advise you accordingly.

But you need to admit that and willingly seek it out. Advisors are fine, but having people who can go deep with you is vital. We do a terrible job, infrastructure-wise, of supporting entrepreneurs. The gov't doesn't support start-ups, wholly, especially on the tax end. Regional industries or industry networking organizations are great at one thing, but not another. Then there's personal family or network support. As complex as a start-up is the whole "It takes a village" mantra doesn't apply here. It should, but it doesn't.

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