Owner's ego Featured

6:24am EDT April 29, 2004
Ego is one of the most frustrating things that can prevent a company from achieving its true potential, because it is something that is under the owner's control.

Nearly every entrepreneur has a large ego. But when the entrepreneur's ego gets in the way of success, causing the owner to lose the ability to listen to others on the management team or outside advisers, it can be a problem.

Great leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses. To them, seeking others' expertise and advice is a sign of strength. Unlike those who think they are expected to know all the answers, great leaders gather information from all available sources before making a decision.

I know of a situation in which the owner's ego is in jeopardy of killing the company. His firm has grown over the past few years but never produced a strong bottom line. The company has a relatively strong management team, an advisory board and outside advisers. Each brings their particular expertise to the table to form what should be a valuable resource. Yet the resource is being wasted.

In meetings and in private conversations with the owner, the team of managers and advisers talk but aren't heard. The owner agrees with the comments and recommendations, but then goes ahead with what he originally planned. He argues against new ideas because they are not his. He is convinced others don't understand the business like he does.

Without a major ego adjustment, this company will never excel and his team will disappear - not because the company doesn't have a good product or potential, but because the owner's ego will have choked its success.

On the flip side, the young owner of one rapidly growing and profitable service business truly gets it. He welcomes input from his managers, his advisers, his board and his employees. What he sees as a strength - asking for advice - has resulted in successful growth and earned him tremendous respect.

He is an entrepreneur and, admittedly, does have that larger than standard ego. However, he has it under control. He accepts criticism and learns from it. He provides his team with a model of leadership that will serve the company well.

Like him, his managers are not afraid to admit that they, too, sometimes need help.

As long as there are entrepreneurial owners, there will be strong egos. It's the ones who learn to control those egos and direct them to the positive who will succeed. Joel Strom (jstrom@cp-advisors.com) is director of Joel Strom Associates, LLC, the growth management practice of C&P Advisors LLC. The firm works exclusively with closely held businesses and their ownership, helping them set and achieve growth objectives while maximizing their profitability and value. Reach him at (216) 831-2663