For years I have believed that the emotional connection an entrepreneur and founder experiences between themselves and their business is like the one they experience with their family. Now new scientific research confirms that owners have the same emotional response to their businesses as they do to their child.
This isn’t surprising considering the irrational choices we make as human beings — both in our personal lives and in business. Consider the following:
Letting an employee take over one of your roles is like watching your heart being ripped out of your chest
Letting your child go off on their own is like watching a piece of you walk away with your heart
Going with your management gut instead of the objective data available
Emotionally based decisions out of love despite the reality of the situation
Fierce protection beyond reason
Parental protection of children
Hiring those who are like the founder
A tribe of friends and family with the same values
Keeping up with the Joneses
Constructive feedback is personal
Any feedback is personal
Financial decisions are hard to make when they affect the company
Money isn’t an object when it comes to your family’s well-being in most cases
But when we emotionally attach to businesses, the results can be less than appealing. This behavior clouds our objective judgment and builds a restricted space that can hold back business growth.
Let’s say that you started your business — or maybe it's a family company that’s passed down from one generation to the next. The business is part of your identity, the fabric that makes up who you are. When at a party, rarely do you identify in another role when introduced to a stranger. We are what we do.
As managers and executives, we carry the heavy weight of responsibility that comes with owning and running a business. We have a fiduciary responsibility to our employees and customers. Despite all this responsibility and the data and reports available, how often do you lead with your heart or feelings?
It didn’t work out for Rose and Jack in Titanic, and this love affair isn’t going to work in the long term for your business. Here are three classic mistakes people make when they love their business to death:
1. Not hiring experts to solve friction points.
Many entrepreneurial businesses suffer from “we can do it all” syndrome. There comes a point in every business’ lifecycle when it should be realized that the talents of the business need to expand to include more subject matter experts or outside help. Just as in life where humans can’t be experts at all things, businesses also have their core competencies. Leading with emotion can cloud the decision to hire an expert and permanently place your business in the DIY department — always appearing busy but never really making any great leaps forward. Or consider the emotional hire of the generational business. The hard truth there is that that your offspring or relative isn’t always the best choice.
2. Hiring experts to solve friction points, but then micromanaging the outcomes.
You realized that your company needs outside expertise to solve a problem and hired an expert consulting firm. Once the experts diagnose the issue and provide strategic insight on how to move forward, your insecurities get the better of you. If this assessment doesn’t align with management’s personal beliefs, the engagement is sabotaged before it even begins. Strategies and projects are then altered to reflect management’s vision despite the experts’ findings. Ultimately both time and money are lost when you are too personally invested in the business you love.
3. Developing a myopic view of the market.
Established businesses can be so in love with their own world that they have a myopic view of the industry. For example, traditional B2B manufacturing firms may believe that they don’t need a marketing strategy. Only citing like-minded competitors or peers in your industry when making decisions is like asking your perpetually single friend for relationship advice. Being blinded by love for your business gives you a narrow-minded view of the market and stunts innovation, leaving your company vulnerable to disruption. Just ask a taxi company owner how they feel about direct-to-consumer services now that Uber and Lyft have completely changed the face of the transportation industry.
roses are red,
violets are blue.
Love your business to death …
and it's curtains for you.
*Note: Special thank-you to David C. Baker for inspiring this post.