Years ago I had a successful startup that I sold for a lot of money. I thought because I did this that I could do anything. I let me ego run my life. I started a new venture and acted like I was "the bomb" and nothing could stop me. This destroyed my business. It wasn't the company, product or people behind the business... it was 100% me that killed this company. As a result, I lost almost everything I owned.
As a business, having a healthy ego can be a great thing. It’s your ego that can give you the self-respect and the self-confidence to take the risks it will take to start a business in the first place. However, when it’s not kept in check, your ego can run rampant and actually be detrimental to your business, like it was with mine.
Here are eight ways that my ego killed my business.
1. My ego wouldn't recognize how much I needed to learn.
When I started my blog, I wrote three posts a day for most of a year without making a dime before I asked for help. Six months later I was making more than I had with my full time job.
A lot of leaders think they have every answer out there, therefore admitting they could improve by learning something new is admitting weakness. That's their ego lying to them because it couldn't be further from the truth. Admitting you need to learn is not a weakness.
Don’t be afraid you'll be judged badly if you ask questions and accept opportunities to learn from others. Ask employees and friends what their ideas are for something you are working. That on keeps your head in the (innovative) game and reminds your ego that you still want and need help. Learning by asking questions helps keep your ego in its place.
2. Made me ignore opportunities.
You would think that the ego would make you push toward the "biggest and the best" of everything for your business. but ego is complacent and resists change. My ego was telling me, "you are so incredible, you've already thought of and done everything that must be done, period." Because of this, my ego prevented me from seizing innovative and beneficial opportunities that could have helped my business move forward and succeed.
Take Gary Vaynerchuk, for example. If he didn’t embrace social media platforms early-on, such as his video podcast Wine Library TV in 2006 and Twitter in 2007, his VaynerMedia wouldn’t have become the empire that it is today. When there’s an opportunity, don’t hesitate to leap onto the possibilities and become a pioneer.
3. I over-estimated my abilities.
When I started my payments company around a year ago, I thought I was smart enough to figure out everything needed to make it work. HA! Life seemed to laugh at me. While business owners like myself are expected to wear multiple hats, don’t kid yourself that you need to wear every hat.
Look, having self-confidence is important but as your business grows, you have to bring in people more talented than you at what they do. Don’t let your ego tell you that you are a master at everything in your business. I was unafraid to tackle the books and learn some accounting basics, but I learned the hard way that I didn't know every tax deduction, code and regulation related to my small business. I ended up letting go of my ego and hiring someone who actually knows what they are doing with bookkeeping and accounting. It turned out that I needed several people like this person.
You can't do it all, so stop trying. Let go of your ego. Learn enough to get started, then be humble enough to know when you need to hire a specialist.
4. I micromanaged.
I have really struggled with this over the years. I feel like I have to control everything, which leads to micromanaging every aspect of my business. Obviously you want to care about the details regarding your business. Here’s the thing though. You and your team aren’t perfect. There will be times when expectations aren’t met. And, that should perfectly acceptable. But, instead of being overbearing, critical and constantly watching your team, you’re creating a culture where your team believes that you don’t trust them. Furthermore, science has found that people actually perform at lower level.
In other words, micromanagement doesn’t work. Back off a little and give your team the freedom to shine on their own.
5. My ego wouldn't let me ask for help.
We’ve all read the stories of successful entrepreneurs. One topic that isn’t as heavily discussed is the assistance that these entrepreneurs have had along the way. Jobs had Wozniak. Gates had Allen. My billionaire mentor, Phil, showed me what my ego wouldn't let see, that without these people companies like Apple and Microsoft wouldn’t have grown into the juggernauts they are today.
Phil told me that, even with all his wealth, he still has mentors. I thought it strange that a 76-year-old guy who is retired, much less one who is among the richest people alive, had a mentor. He told me having a mentor has allowed him to learn from the experience of other people.''
"There are things you'll never understand until you have experience it,'' Phil said. "I have never once in my life been without a mentor. They are the people who help me become confident in my decisions."
Whether it’s bringing in a partner, seeking out a mentor or coach, or polling your team, don’t let your ego prevent you from asking for help when you need it.
6. Every decision revolved around me.
Just because your favorite color is red does not mean red is the best possible color for your logo (but maybe the walls in your office). That color may not fit your brand’s voice. Red might just be too stimulating for your accounting firm. But, because it’s your business and red is your favorite color, you won’t budge. It's not actually about the color - it's about the mindset that won't allow other ideas to be suggested or considered. The ego problem we're talking about here is the mindset that remains inflexible.
My business isn’t about me. It’s about my customers and how I can enhance their lives. If I'm not listening to their wants and needs, they won't continue to support me and my business. Focus on your customers.
7. I couldn't back down, I had to ‘win.’
Your ego wants you to always be right. This means that when you get into a discussion or argument on ways that you can make your business grow, you won’t back down until you’ve gotten your way. Instead of looking for ways to make your business stronger, you fight for something that won’t help your business succeed.
My friend Zac Johnson always says "You’re just fighting to fight because you can’t stand being wrong. True leaders know when the battle is over." This hits home with most people like myself!
Related: 10 Truths We Forget Too Easily
8. I set impossible goals.
Finally, thanks to my ego, I set impossible goals. The worst part about this? I then beat myself up when I didn’t reach those goals.
I've been here 1000x. I've set my alarm to wake up at 5:30 countless times to go to the gym. It's not going to happen and I'm only sabotaging myself by setting an impossible goal. Just like in the business world. I won't set a goal to reach $1 million recurring revenue in my first month of business because it's not possible.
As a business owner, it’s important that you set goals that are attainable and realistic. Set goals that you can reach wit a step-by-step plan. When your mind is clouded with unrealistic expectations problems arise and you actually accomplish less.