Are you a DIY entrepreneur? True confessions – I used to be but have worked hard to become “reformed” in this category. I’m not necessarily saying that the DIY notion is entirely flawed. In fact, there are very healthy aspect to being DIY. Based upon my own experience and what I’ve observed over the years, here’s the profile of a DIY entrepreneur.
In the earlier days of my career, I worked hard to become educated about my industry and all its intricacies. I learned how to replace a toilet, effectively lease apartments, deliver spot-on zero-based budgets and identify great talent. I could get deep in the weeds better than anyone. And this eventually carried through to whatever position I was filling at the time. This level of detail was productive in that I knew what needed to be done in nearly every instance. It also became a trap when I found that other members of my team were sitting back and taking the attitude, “we don’t have to worry about that. Lee will eventually take care of it.”
The DIY entrepreneur often fails to delegate. Sometimes its delegating key functions and at other times its simply anything at all. I can well remember the times that I’d prepare a complicated financial model or call a client because I believed the task could be handled more quickly (and much better) if I just did it myself. While this may have been true at that moment in time, there were other things that I also needed to do that were being pushed to the backburner. I finally realized that this aspect of the DIY entrepreneur was actually counterproductive. I was not prioritizing my time correctly nor was I contributing to the growth of other team members who were being deprived of the opportunity to learn how to handle the tasks I was hoarding.
I also learned that being a DIY entrepreneur was a massive roadblock to scaling our business. No matter how efficient I thought I was, there was no way that I – as one person – could grow a complex enterprise by myself. Further, one of our initiatives is to create a sustainable organization that lasts well beyond the current leadership and perpetuates for generations to come. Hundreds of families – thousands of people – depend upon our family of companies for their livelihood. Growing and scaling the business is critical to our sustainability. Eventually I had to let go of so many of the things that I had handled in the past and trust others to do so instead. I found this to be somewhat liberating . . . but also a bit scary.
Why was it scary? Because I had not previously invested myself in the coaching and mentoring process. This is a common characteristic of the DIY entrepreneur. I know the high-powered leader of another business who has been extremely successful. He’s my age and has done amazing things in his career. On the downside, he’s not a coach or a mentor. He yells and curses at members of his team. His DIY style is that of command and control. I have often wondered what will happen to his company when the day comes that he keels over from a stroke or heart attack. As I have become more and more of a “reformed” DIY entrepreneur, I have found that coaching and mentoring offers amazing rewards – especially as I watch others carve-out success in their own right.
Many DIY entrepreneurs are loathed to share the spotlight. The businessperson previously referenced is always the focus of news articles and industry awards. There’s no question that he’s very accomplished in his field. But rarely do I ever see him compliment those who work for and with him – especially publicly. It thrills me to see members of our team win public recognition. My role now includes being one of the biggest cheerleaders for others in our organization and I love it!
Finally, the DIY entrepreneur may find it difficult to admit mistakes. Why? Because the burden rests entirely upon him or her. When one is in this position, we think we know that our way is absolutely the right way. We aren’t about to seek advice from others and when things don’t work out as planned, we have a tendency to place the blame elsewhere. Perhaps asking others for their thoughts and ideas is a signal of weakness in the mind of the DIY entrepreneur. As a result, we plunge ahead fearlessly and tirelessly . . . right off the proverbial cliff. Entrepreneurs who are truly self-confident and comfortable in their own skin don’t have a problem admitting they screwed up. They welcome and embrace the counsel of members of their team.
If you are a DIY entrepreneur there is hope for you. The “reform” process involves learning to prioritize, delegate, coach, mentor, trust others, share the spotlight and be willing to admit mistakes.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.