We lose perspective as entrepreneurs. One of the reasons I wrote this book is so we can recognize that and manage ourselves and our teams through it. We lose sight of the fact that the rest of the world does not wake up with the passion, determination and focus that we do. Something has spurred us to take this wild journey to create our venture. Our heart and soul are in it. Our business life and personal life (if you have one) are intimately intermingled. We think about it twenty-four hours per day and our dreams are not of sipping pina coladas or a relaxing day at the spa, but rather having our first real paying customers. It is unlikely anyone else is losing sleep, shunning their personal lives, or investing their heart and soul.
A problem develops, however, when we have the expectation that anyone associated with our venture wakes up with the same visceral desire to see it come to fruition as we do. Our business may be our oxygen, but for even the most dedicated employee or supportive spouse it will never be what gives breath to their lives. We must accept that this is a unique place that we occupy, and if we expect others to have the same perspective, we will be disappointed. Bottom line—no one cares as much as we do.
This comes to life in many ways:
- Work Ethic. I had a hard time reconciling this feeling when I first started IncentOne. My team didn’t lack a good work ethic. I was simply lacking perspective.
When we started IncentOne, I had been a corporate attorney at a New York law firm for a few years. For anyone who knows anything about New York corporate lawyers, they work long hours. When we started IncentOne, even though I was working around the clock, I might have been one of the few people that did not work longer, crazier hours when they started their company. My expectations were that anyone who saw the vision that I saw to fix the healthcare system with rewards for healthy behavior would be driven to work as I was. I became disappointed by their work effort, even though they were working their asses off. I expected that everyone would work till ten o’clock every night. I’d get frustrated when people would be leaving the office at 6 p.m. to get a drink with friends. I would think “how the hell can they leave early when we have so much to do?”
Imagine that. Going for a drink after work with some friends.
An entrepreneur was talking to me about an employee she was paying $20,000 per year. She said, “I’m not sure she is right for the team.” When I asked her why she said, “I was talking to her and said that she needed to have her weekends. She liked playing volleyball at the beach and she wanted to spend time with her boyfriend. I’m not sure she is cut out for this.”
If we had our way, we would ban volleyball. We might even ban boyfriends.
We usually understand this when it comes to people that are tangentially involved in our business – like family, friends and advisors that aren’t involved in the day to day. While we might accept and even understand this for friends and family, this skewed perspective is hard to overcome when it comes to our team. We say things like, “so what if they are only working for equity” or “did they think sleep was part of the job description.” When we don’t recognize that no one cares as much as we do, we not only become frustrated, but we alienate our team members that are working hard, and usually working for below market compensation. We must have realistic expectations not only about their work effort but also about how much they care about all the things that run through our mind each day. It is not the that our teams don’t care enough, it is that we as leaders at not recognizing and accepting that no one cares as much as we do – and taking steps to bridge this gap.
- Money. Lack of attention to money used to drive me crazy. Especially when it was my money. If you left a career or job with a regular paycheck, you understand how incredibly sensitive to money entrepreneurs can be. It’s not that your team is not, but they don’t have the same obsession with it as we do. Imagine watching your bank account shrink when you know you are at least a year from revenue. Imagine getting a parking ticket for $150 when you are burning through your savings. Imagine having to ask friends and family for money. It runs through your mind every minute of every day. It drove me crazy when people going from New York to Philadelphia, Boston or Washington DC, would take the Acela instead of taking the standard train. It would cost about another $100 to save thirty to forty-five minutes. Don’t they know we are a startup?
We are always thinking about saving money – and it often gets a little ridiculous:
When we had a team travel to trade shows or to finalist or investor presentations, I wanted team members to share rooms together even though most of them were in their 40s. In retrospect, not sure this was realistic when it comes to grown professionals over the age of 35 but it was my perspective at the time. When they questioned it, I questioned their dedication to what we were doing.
We just can’t seem to understand why no one else is willing to drive six hours in the snow versus taking a 90 minute flight. We think that no jury would convict us for killing a team member that ordered the $100 bottle of wine at the client dinner or used an expensive software when there was an open source version. Remember, no one cares as much as we do.
- Attention to Detail. This also comes to life when it comes to attention to detail. It is inconceivable that a document or presentation would be sent to us by a team member without every single line perfect. We keep saying to ourselves, “how could they not proofread it?” or “why couldn’t they do the little extra research?”. The entrepreneur is willing to leave no stone unturned, to proofread a document at midnight when we have already been working for fourteen hours and to redo a presentation despite spending hours on it.
The sooner we accept that there is no one out there that cares as much as we do, the better off we will be. It is our perspective that is off, not theirs. This flawed perspective can be detrimental to team members and other resources that are working hard, and still criticized for not being committed. Telling someone who has just worked a long day or a weekend that they aren’t committed enough is a great way to turn them into an ex-employee.
Our entrepreneurial passion can blind us to negative and inefficient perspectives, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be proud of our passion. We just need to recognize how it works and how it affects others.
Not everyone has what it takes to bring the energy to create something from nothing. I always felt lucky not only that I stumbled on to something that might turn into a good business, but that I was working on my passion every day. People will say to you, “Work is fine but it’s not like I wake up passionate about credit card marketing. I wish I woke up every day working on something I really believed in.” We are lucky to have found our idea or our vision. We are lucky to have that glow in our eye. What goes with that is the reality that no one will care about it as much as you do. How we handle that perspective, and the other perspectives in this book, is what The Lonely Entrepreneur is all about.