Man in the mirror Featured

6:12am EDT March 22, 2005
I've worked with some really successful businesses, and others that had just as much potential for greatness but were never able to put it all together.

What was the difference? There was no single reason but there is one underlying cause -- the owners. An entrepreneur is his own greatest enemy.

This enemy can take many forms. It could be the inability to seek advice; even the smartest among us do not have all the answers. Yet too many entrepreneurs refuse to tap outside assistance. To be fair, there are entrepreneurs who are open to and seek advice, and run highly successful companies. They recognize that getting help is not a sign of weakness but of brilliance.

Sometimes, the enemy arrives disguised. The frustrated entrepreneur says he or she wants advice, solicits it but ignores it. In these cases, the enemy's form is "rationalization," which can be dangerous to the company's future.

Entrepreneur rationalizes away the advice so they can keep doing what they've been doing. The worst-case scenario usually involves financial performance, and the resulting wounds can be fatal if an entrepreneur rationalizes poor financial performance as simply a blip on the radar screen.

A final form of the enemy is "take no action," which closely resembles rationalization. In the take no action form, the entrepreneur, when faced with a pressing situation, either takes no action or is extremely slow to do so. When quick action is required, this can severely hamper any chance for success.

So how do you battle this enemy? Your employees can be great soldiers in defense. They have the ability to see the battlefield from a more realistic perspective. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs often see employees as the enemy and direct the fight at them rather than utilizing them to help overcome the real enemy, themselves.

The first step to overcoming the enemy is admitting that it might exist. Look closely in your mirror. Is the enemy preventing your business from reaching its true potential staring back?

Joel Strom is the founder of Joel Strom Associates. His firm works with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve their growth objectives while maximizing their profitability and value. Reach him at (216) 831-2663 or