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My Most Important Lesson Learned as an Entrepreneur

A common thread runs through all entrepreneurs; each has a vision for a product or service that has the potential to impact the world we live in. So we make personal and financial sacrifices in order to move closer to our vision, hire really great people who can help accelerate execution, and start to grow companies. And then many of us make a tragic mistake – one in which I nearly made as well.

share vision

Share your vision, but don’t give it away – photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

We give away our vision to the very people we brought on board to help us achieve it.

When that happens, the vision usually grinds to a halt or withers up altogether, a victim of group-think. And while everyone’s passion remains high, the direction becomes less clear, and the vision wanders aimlessly forward, or sideways, or even backward.

In the summer of 2011, I launched a technology startup, raised an initial round of $1.5 million, hired staff, and opened offices. My vision was clear – to transform businesses by developing software and services that would allow them to execute smarter, faster, and better. I had a vision for the software, a vision for our support services, a vision for our brand strategy, and even a vision for our corporate culture. I knew how all the pieces fit together, and when I was done, I was convinced we would have not only a very cool company, but also one that was very relevant in the world of business and industry.

But each additional person I hired had their own vision, and although their visions were similar to my own, they were not identical. Then, in an effort to empower those whom I hired, I gave away the technology vision to our chief technology officer, the support services vision to our director of client engagement, the brand strategy vision to our marketing director, and the corporate culture vision to our COO.

It didn’t take long before the company started to show signs of illness. I was puzzled, as I thought I was a better leader than our collective performance showed. After all, I ran a $600 million a year health system with 5,000 employees, and led the organization to record market share and revenues, inclusion on Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and a listing as one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. So how was it I couldn’t bring together 12 people to achieve great things?

The answer: I gave away my vision for the company to others who had different visions – none of which were consistent with mine or their colleagues.

Fortunately, I realized my error before it hurt the company. There are certainly others who haven’t be as lucky, who saw their vision squashed because they put it in the hands of others who had good intentions, but who also saw the world a little differently.

Big Lesson Learned: Never, ever give away your vision to someone else.

About the Author: This article is written by Scott Regan. Scott has worked with organizations throughout the United States and United Kingdom on strategic issues, strategy development, and creating organizational cultures that foster execution and innovation.

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This article is one of the excellent contributions from small business owners, decision makers and professionals.

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  • Sometimes mistakes comes first before we learned our lesson. It’s good for you and for your company that you realized the error or mistake before anything bad happen. Every person has their own visions in life.

  • Kai Alexandre

    Great article! I was actually a victim to something similar and am now playing catchup. Long story short, I made an online channel on YouTube back in late 2010 when the idea of such hadn’t even gone public–I’ve always been similarly lucky and ahead of the curve!

    I then went to work creating a parent company that would manage the day-to-day operations and sales of the channels and others that I was planning on launching. It took sometime as I knew nothing about starting a business, start-ups, etc. When we were finally ready to launch in 2012, I put one of my producers (who had no start-up experience) in charge of operations and another friend in charge of production. I know it sounds crazy; rule #1 of Start-up FightClub is don’t hire friends! However, my producer was a quick learner and great at keeping projects moving efficiently and effectively. My other friend who I put in charge of production was a great shooter with an amazing eye and knack for ad sales and the biz, and also the grandson of one of the biggest and most bad ass ad-execs to ever walk the earth! (they based Don Draper from MadMen on his grandfather!)

    However, it would turn out to be a deadly combination. My producer who ran operations also had another job and found it difficult to balance learning the start-up world and her job that paid the bills. We’d be meeting up until midnight most nights, and she’d yawn and want to go to sleep b/c she’d have to be up early. On the flip side, my head of production with his infinite connections and drive was running at 100mph. Until one day when he informs me that he’s not only pitched our idea to several huge ad agencies that want to partner/invest, he’s also setup meetings with them as well and is asking when I was available. — There was only one issue, he’d completely screwed up the pitch and didn’t know that 3 of the agencies were the competitors to another agency with whom I was already working. It appeared as if I was playing both sides, but in reality, I had no clue!

    Basically after a year and half of development work, I was tanked by my first 2 employees who were supposed to help me launch. One was slowing me down, while the other had passed the finish line and circled back. I didn’t quite though! I cut off the outside world for about 3months and went back to the drawing board.

    January 31, 2013 marked my return to NYC after my 3month hiatus. Let’s see how this goes the second time around…

    follow me on twitter @kaialexandre