I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs over the years who are very laser-focused on growing their businesses and establishing an empire for themselves. I say that last part only half-jokingly. But this isn’t a bad thing at all. In order to be a good businessperson, you do need to have grit, vision and ambition. The problem comes in when these self-sufficient, determined founders mistakenly confuse collaboration with dependence – and decide to go it alone.
As someone who advocates for doing things yourself (and has both successfully and unsuccessfully changed my own windshield wiper blades, fixed my own website bugs and made my own Pinterest-inspired cake – let’s not talk about that last one), I get it. My head works the same way. We think, “I’m independent. I’m savvy. I can do this myself.” And then we start reasoning that things will actually pan out better if we work in our own little isolated silo, because no one can get in our way or drag us down.
But this is dangerous.
If you retreat away until you’re nothing more than a business-leader-turned-hermit, you’re going to deeply damage your progress (and your own psyche). Here’s why.
#1. Your team will be left leader-less. Whether you’re a “natural leader” or an introvert with frightening social skills, you are the founder and your team needs you. A staff of one or a staff of 100 needs direction and to unite behind a common vision. If you’re scared to trust people and try to control it all yourself, your business will never grow because the truth of the matter is no Fortune 500 company is run entirely by one person. The sooner you can learn to bring on people who are worthy of your trust, the sooner you can share your load and delegate. The mark of a good leader is someone who keeps the tasks within his field of expertise – and doles out the rest to others who excel in well-suited, complementary areas.
#2. You will be closed off from priceless feedback. Many start-ups join competitions to find out if their business has what it takes in the real world, make connections and to have a chance at some great prizes. The primary benefit of any of these programs is the insight founders get into their businesses. Yes, some of it will sting like coarse salt on an open wound. But the pearls of wisdom you can get from interacting with people who have succeeded on the paths you’re walking can be priceless. Your business should be continually refined! So whether you join a competition or just choose to chat with the person next to you at your co-working space, remain open. I know your business is your baby and you don’t want anyone to be negative about it, but the only way to improve is to get honest, objective feedback. It’ll make your baby better, I promise.
#3. You will lose out on opportunities. Closing yourself off from other people might sound highly tempting, especially if you’ve been burned by a partner or mocked by a friend. But I’ve found that the naysayers of the world are far fewer in number than those with a positive impact (or maybe I just notice them less because they’ve made themselves unimportant)! Keep networking, keep sharing your business with people who care and keep your eyes open for opportunities. You never know what conversation will turn into a strategic partnership, your next (and best) hire or a valuable piece of advice. And don’t discount the significance of a human-to-human connection. Having others as sounding boards and confidants can make all the difference in the mental and emotional aspects of your journey.
So yes, I wholeheartedly support you in doing your own PR and taking charge of your own writing in the beginning stages of your company. But please remember this does not mean removing yourself from the business community or excluding people who genuinely want to help you. There are some wonderful folks out there, many who are very savvy and kind. An entrepreneur’s life is hard enough without choosing to go it alone. Keep connected, and keep growing!