Entrepreneurs are often touted as brave and visionary. They are admired for the foresight and willingness to change the model. To build better ways. While it is sometimes true it often times is not the case. The pressure of running your own gig leads many entrepreneurs to come from places more human and less heroic than the books like to talk about.
Much of the time running a business is scary. Many business owners worry about making things work, looking after themselves and their families and they make things more complex than they need to. We call this thinking selfish, scared and stupid. It may not sound like a positive description this is something all human beings do. It is part of our survival wiring.
Here are 5 of the most common selfish, scared and stupid mistakes entrepreneurs make.
1. Being selfish means talking more about themselves than their customers.
Human beings are wired to be selfish, we look after our own first and foremost. It is a successful strategy; after all we survived this long thanks to this natural human trait. The problem is when it comes to running our businesses this innate selfishness can be problematic. We work with a large number of entrepreneurs and business owners and they always are happy to talk about themselves and what their business does. They know what makes them special, why they love it and can talk at length about it.
Yet when you ask them about their customers the story is vastly different. The depth of knowledge is light on, surface even. They know very little or sometimes nothing at all about their customers. We were working with a music school that knew little about their customer. After much digging and chatting they saw that their customer was really the parent who had never learned music but wished they had. These parents had a regret and a longing for their kids that was powerful and persuasive. They did not want their kids to not have the regret they did. They did not have the musical skills to teach them but loved music enough to wish they did. This understanding of the customer transformed their business and the way they spoke to them. So forget just knowing thyself. Know thy customer.
2. Being scared means being too boring.
When there is a lot on the line, like mortgages, or paying staff or bills business owners can suddenly become a little more fearful and subsequently play a little safer. Fear kicks in and the edges are smoothed out. The problem with this is that small businesses and entrepreneurs biggest hurdle is often getting noticed. When you consider the barrage of information and options hurled at people constantly, some hundred plus newspapers worth a day according to some studies, you realize that safety is a more dangerous game than risk. Entrepreneurs are more in danger of being invisible than they are of being controversial. Yet so often they opt for the more sedate road.
Standing out means being anything but boring. So loosen up, find your entrepreneurial spirit and play it less safe.
3. Being scared means being in the same game.
Fear also drives businesses into the same game. To many businesses look the same as their competitors yet they use details to separate themselves and presume their customers will notice the nuance. They won’t. They’re just not that into you. Google delivers millions of options in microseconds and they are not short of options.
To the average customer many businesses look the same as their competitors, they sound the same, and they sell the same things at the same prices in the same ways.
If you want to build your business stop looking to your competitors as a reference point. Instead of being similar to them be different. We had a lawyer attending one of our entrepreneur courses and were working on this point. For him this meant no mahogany, no bookshelves, no dark woods or leather chairs. It meant looking to Apple store design, fashion boutiques and more human brands for inspiration.
So look to different industries and businesses not like yours for inspiration.
4. Being stupid means making ideas too new.
Stupidity is about the human tendency to look for the easiest way to get things done. When it comes to selling our business ideas entrepreneurs tend to over complicate things and make ideas harder to buy than they need to. They do this by making their ideas seem too new, too novel and too ‘never seen before.’ They ask investors and customers to take a risk without realizing it. By using words like ‘new,’ ‘revolutionary,’ and ‘never seen before,’ they add complication and they turn human beings natural fear detectors on.
The secret with business ideas is to make them new enough. Human beings love novelty yet fear change. So err on the side of novel. Selling electronic mail is easier than a never seen before, transformational, revolutionary way to send letters without paper.
5. Being stupid means making it harder than it needs to be.
Uber built its entire business model making it easier than it currently was. It eliminated roadblocks. Yet so often in business we make it harder than it needs to be. We put complicated processes in place, we make our returns policies tricky and we expect people to go out of their way to engage with us.
Instead always be looking to simplify. Eliminate as many steps as you can between the customer and your product. Ask yourself every day, at every stage, at every step is this as easy as it can be.
Thinking selfish, scared and stupid in business is perfectly natural you just need to use it to your advantage.