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.