Employee Mentality – The danger of Entitlement in your Startup (Part 2)

Entitlement is officially defined as “The fact of having a right to something”. A truly vague definition but one that has merit in its simplicity. Words that are used to define entitlement include “right” and “guarantee” and words that you need remove from your lexicon as an Entrepreneur. Employees are accustomed to a simple mechanism: They work for a certain period of time and receive a certain prearranged form of compensation. They operate quite happily within these boundaries and the danger arises when they extrapolate this into their start-up. When you start your business you need to realize that, mostly, there is either little or a very unpredictable correlation between your work input and the risk and reward within your start-up. There are entrepreneurs that hit the right market at the right time and become the poster children of the media as a prime example of “Entrepreneurship”. There are also those that pick the wrong market such as say consumer goods or revenue based models that depend heavily on advertising and that no matter how much good marketing, hard work and intelligent strategy they input there is still a high chance of failure. Often I meet start-up founders who make unreasonable demands of my time and believe because I am a successful Entrepreneur and they are starting out, that they are entitled to my help, my time and even financial assistance. If you think that a person or an organization owes you something then you’re probably a “Wantrepreneur”. The last refuge of the incapable and disadvantaged Consider a typical scene of entitlement, two children where one’s toy was taken by the other and the others demand of their parent. “It’s mine, not Billy’s! Make him give it back to me”. A more astute example that won’t be confused with ownership is that of a child crying if they have not received the candy they wanted in a store. The above example is reflected in the incapability of the child to express himself and to obtain his or her desires without the sense of entitlement. For this reason I propose that entitlement is the last refuge of the incapable and disadvantaged. Although this is understandable in children it is also endemic in too many adults that have not developed the ability to obtain what they desire or to abstain from what they desire. In today’s society you do not get what you deserve but what you earn. A priest and an entrepreneur walk into a bar Here is, what I think, the interesting part of this article; At this point you might be nodding your head, appreciative of my logical and Sherlockian reasoning. Alas, like Arthur Conan Doyle’s strange contrarian belief in the Cottingley Faeries ( I must disappoint you, and contradict myself. Successful Entrepreneurs have something else that can be mistaken for entitlement but the difference is definitely nuanced. They have a dream, they have a vision and they have a holy quest. This is not entitlement, one can call it the reality distortion field but I am going to call it Zealotry. With entitlement you expect someone to grant you X With zealotry you believe that it is your destiny to obtain X I am not proposing anything like the Law of Attraction and all of that nonsense but I am proposing that you need to BELIEVE, believe in your vision and your company. A pastor who speaks to his flock without belief in his heart, will not move anyone. The great Entrepreneurs of our day dreamt of the impossible and believed they could accomplish it. Indoctrinating yourself Sadly I don’t think you can TELL yourself to believe in yourself, you cannot convince yourself of your vision and you definitely cannot convince others of your holy quest or vision without first being convinced yourself. Although there is much of smoke and mirrors in business this is not something that you can “fake it until you make it”. So what is the solution, how do you believe in your idea that you are able to convince others of your vision? This is an emotional issue and I cannot provide you with a 5-step process to accomplish this. I would hazard a few points that you would need to strive towards: Surround yourself with people that fill in your weaknesses and help you overcome hurdles. Find your own Paul Allen or Steve Wozniak. Commit. If your idea is all that you have in your life you really need to believe it. Many entrepreneurs have launched themselves into great businesses from the backseat of their cars because they had nothing else in their minds but their vision. Money is the best validator there is and for this reason focus on Sales. If you are getting paid for your vision you will believe in it even more.  (Stay away from Vanity metrics. Winning Pitch of the year and being unable to sell your product to your target market speaks volumes) A touch of Realism: Work on developing a feedback loop. Pursue activities that will validate your idea or destroy your idea. Be ruthless with yourself Too many business accelerators and incubators focus on realism. They look for the hockey stick, they look for KPI’s and metrics that determine when to go Series A, Series B and when to exit. The really great ideas that change our world have no hockey stick, they are born of the mind and the soul. If you don’t know your Customer Acquisition Cost for a SaaS model (Excellent article here on SaaS Metrics: then it’s true that you may have difficulty but ultimately you might be alone, you need be the insane one Drinking your own Kool-Aid may not be such a bad thing after all?

1 comment

Employee Mentality (Part 1 – Shirking Blame)

When employees decide to become entrepreneurs they tend to take their Employee thought processes with them. Sometimes these ways of thinking can become long-lasting core part of the Entrepreneur and follow them for many years. Successful people have their own systems for judging people, they make a point of having “instant reject criteria” to save time in determining who they want to work with and who they don’t. These mentalities definitely form part of these instant reject criteria and if you find yourself falling prey to these they can be highly detrimental to your own mental and business health Shirking Blame This is by far the most common failure I see in start-ups and would be Entrepreneurs. The inability to take blame is endemic among the founders who want to start their own business. It most typically presents as the response to criticism of the failure to deliver a service or product. When questioned by the customer or investor the entrepreneur generally replies with: “It was out of my control, the supplier failed to deliver the stock” or even “It’s not my fault… <insert excuse here>” As a business owner or start up founder ALL that happens within your organization is your win or your loss, you cannot cherry-pick as you see fit. The buck stops at you and although you can attempt to separate the cause and effect this is ultimately unimportant. The cause may have been beyond your control at that point in time but the effect is your responsibility. This may initially sound harsh but let me explain. Firstly taking blame does not necessarily mean that you need to also feel guilt, it should be welcomed as the previously overlooked opportunity to improve. Secondly taking blame allows you to look at a situation with DEPTH. It provides you with the psychological imperative to say “Why did this happen” and “What can I do now to prevent this from happening again” Sadly the problem is not merely settled with a semantic fix. Many long term “business” owners I have met will readily say “I take the blame” when confronted with a failure to deliver but without any psychological intent behind it. They will then return to their office, kick the employee who goes home, kicks his wife, who kicks the child and who in turn kicks the cat who… ad inifitum. They merely carry the mistake as if it were a hot potato to the nearest employee or person responsible. The taking of the blame needs to happen within your core and without guilt. It should be an opportunity to examine your actions, the actions of others and the situation that has developed. Doing this properly provides you with the ability to see DEPTH within a problem, to examine not just the cause and effect but analyze a long chain of causes. Let me provide a recent example: Recently I was very busy with a variety of projects and being short-staffed I had contacted some external contractors that I had used in the past to assist with work at Client A. The type of work required at Client A was more of industrial type drilling, cutting and mounting of conduit for networking cable. One of the contractors arrived at the office with one of his own workers who I hadn’t previously used for work, they left together with our primary team of technicians to start work at Client A. En-route I instructed my team to quickly visit Client B (A corporate client) to attend to the reticulation of a network point for a boardroom. A little while later it emerged that one of the technicians had put his foot through the Boardroom ceiling while climbing through the roof. I discovered that our primary Team had arrived on site and the external contractor started doing the work, the apprentice of the external contractor had climbed into the ceiling and he caused the ultimate damage. In my book this is a low level disaster, the client uses the boardroom for their clients and maintains a high image of professionalism and now they have a hole in the ceiling. Here are the various scenarios and modes of thought: Reaction A: I inform the client that it was some inexperienced contractor that I used who damaged the ceiling and that I would get a Quotation for the repair and sort out the problem. Contact the technician who put his foot through the ceiling and crap him out for his accident. Reaction B: Inform the client that there was an accident on site by one of the technicians, apologize and indicate that I will get the damage repaired. Contact the site manager and reprimand him as he allowed the inexperienced technician to work on a delicate site. Which would you select? If you said B then you’d be wrong. What I did was contact the client, take blame, apologize, explain that there was an accident and promise urgent repair regardless of the cost. The site manager is reprimanded for allowing the inexperienced technician to climb into the roof at a high profile client and then I proceeded to blame myself for the entire situation, the inexperienced technician was ultimately allowed to work by myself as I had the first option to reject him when he arrived at the office. Although a strong case can be made that the Team Manager had the ultimate control the initial variable was me allowing a trusted external contractor to bring an untrusted element to a professional site. By taking the blame this allowed me to examine the whole process of external contractors for future work. If you have managed to successfully adopt the act of taking blame in your business life as laid out above you will also find yourself naturally adopting this within your personal life. This will allow you to worry less about situations beyond your control and focus your efforts on problem solving. Harnessing the above will do something else really neat for you, it will harden you […]