The Entrepreneur Who Made Everyone Happy

 
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The Entrepreneur Who Made Everyone Happy

As executive and entrepreneurial business coaches, VIM Executive Coaching has heard just about every type of “going out of business story” it is possible to hear. They are never enjoyable stories. 

Not easy

When something happens to cause an entrepreneur to have to concede that the business or the concept itself has failed, it is usually a hard and gut-wrenching time. Whether an entrepreneur owns a flooring manufacturing and importing company or a carpet cleaning service, in the days leading up to the failure, or the many weeks after, there is a devastation of the soul and spirit, not just the wallet. Far too often, “business” is characterized as a cold, ruthless place of profits, losses and driven egos. We beg to differ. At VIM Executive Coaching we have known many very fine entrepreneurs who have led noble, caring and compassionate companies.

Sometimes, we fear, it is possible to be a little too crowd pleasing and noble.

A few years ago, we worked with a very fine gentleman who was in the fastener business. Yes, there is big money in that (if you want to make a bad pun and say, ‘That sounds fascinating!’ go right ahead), I don’t think he would mind.

In any event, he built the business up to where it was showing a profit. His sales department was writing a lot of business and everything seemed, on the surface, to be humming along quite nicely. However, there was an organizational problem: he could not say “no.” Deals were cut this way and that in order to satisfy everyone, employees were given great autonomy to cut those deals, and terms were rather extended as long as the sale was made.

Over time, and especially as manufacturing costs, import duties and packaging machinery costs rose, the company became increasing indebted and then insolvent.

“I tried to make everyone happy,” he said. “I destroyed my company with kindness.”

Maybe yes, maybe no

In reflecting to his initial assessment, it is possible to assess blame and say, that yes, he destroyed the business by trying to be everything to everybody. He would not be the first to have put himself into that position. The entrepreneur is often in a lonely and isolated place and he or she has no one to turn to for counsel.

It is well and good for an outsider to say “Well, your price is your price and you should never make exceptions.” In practice it is easier said than done. I knew a woman who had an innovative line of food products who was offered placement in a major grocery chain but it required “advertising fees.” She paid them and it crippled her business for many months to follow.

When I encounter an entrepreneur, who has had trouble setting firm boundaries and who has tried to be everything to everybody, I ask them to look inward at the greatest asset the company has.

“What is that?” they will frequently ask.

“You.”

It was their vision, their courage, their drive and mindset that created the organization in the first place. For we know, all too well, that entrepreneurs have a tremendous amount of courage. We greatly admire all of you because what you are doing is amazing. However, in the attempt to be courageous many entrepreneurs, forget mindfulness.

In being mindful, in taking the time to reflect and respond rather than react and try to be everything to everybody, the lines can be drawn and the entrepreneur can come from a place of purpose and protecting what they have created.

With time, both the man in the fastener business and the woman in the food business might have been quite successful. Because they had no counsel except the fear of losing business, favor or support, they were scattered. Mindfulness, one of the many techniques we teach at VIM Executive Coaching, can help entrepreneurs from being everything to everyone.


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