It’s Not All About You

By Chuck Violand

August 29, 2016

For an entrepreneur, starting a business is a lot like having kids—it’s an exhilarating time in our life, and everything is new and exciting. Each day is packed with learning experiences as we watch our business grow, just as it is with a newborn child. Our life is forever changed, and the world outside our business sometimes fades into the background as we focus all our attention on our new baby.

Just like with an infant, thinking about a new business consumes all our waking moments… and frequently many of our non-waking ones. We stay up into the wee hours of the night either dreaming about its future or worrying about its health.

Because of the close connection we have to our business it’s only natural that we take it very personally. In the early years, when a customer refuses to pay for a job we did or asks us to discount our price, we take it very seriously. After all, it’s our money they’re playing with. We have a mortgage to pay and groceries to buy; equipment to maintain and supplies to purchase. We take our money personally.

When a customer tells us they’re not happy with the work we performed, we take that personally too. While our customer might simply be saying she’d like us to redo an area, we interpret it as her saying we didn’t measure up. We take criticism personally.

As our business grows and succeeds, it’s easy to let the same thing happen to our ego. We convince ourself of the inflated influence we have on the success of our company. But, no matter how good we are, or how much money we make, we’re usually not as good as we think we are, nor do we exert as much influence over the success of our company as we think we do. Caught up in our own self-congratulations, it’s easy to overlook the impact our customers, random encounters, and plain old dumb luck have on our success.

This heightened focus on ourself and our business can also have a significant downside. We might feel the entire universe revolves around what we’re doing, and that everyone around us is just as enthusiastic about our new venture as we are, but they may not be. Family members and friends who are not directly involved can soon grow impatient with our obsession. Relationships that are important to us can be compromised, and sometimes lost.

Some forms of self-focus are subtler than others. Communication is one of them. When we’re absorbed in our own importance we don’t always feel the need to communicate with the people around us. Conversations with customers become transactional (I perform; you pay). Believing it’s all about us, we don’t feel the need to let others in on the plans for our business, and we certainly don’t feel the need to ask for their input, once again reinforcing the notion that it’s all about us.

At some point in their careers, the leaders of successful companies learn that it’s really not all about them, and they learn to shift the focus away from themselves and onto the people who play an integral part in their companies’ success. They learn that it can’t be all about them.