Entrepreneurs Can Be Emotionally Tied Up in Their Smallness

Woman at desk with laptop

I was talking to a friend and entrepreneur in Florida this week. We were talking about how we loved being entrepreneurs and complaining how most of our network connections were afraid of risk. We would offer them opportunities, engage with them in networking events and witness them running their businesses on a day-to-day basis. Most let it be known that they were actively looking for business but when the opportunity was put in their face they were shocked and didn’t know what to do next. It is very frustrating!

Entrepreneurs were made to take risk, without it there is no excitement and no reward at the end of the tunnel. Having said that, I’m speaking in terms of moderate risk, large rewards and huge opportunities that wait for no one.

My friend told me he respected me because, as he said, “I was always out there promoting or pushing opportunities”, was never afraid and was always ready to take action when an opportunity arose. Sometimes the opportunity cries out to an entrepreneur but often it is very subtle. If you want big rewards you must take big risks (or so the theory goes). I think there is a more cognitive and salient reason that a lot of businesses fail in the first year. Yes, Fail – in North America 80% of all startup businesses will last one year. Phew, seriously, besides all the usual suspects like the lack of money, poor planning, wrong people involved, there is another reason for failure. My buddy gave me the perfect reason for failure – “Some entrepreneurs are emotionally tied up in their Smallness”.

Emotionally tied up in their smallness, what a line. Let me explain, I have to compare two of my clients. I have been coaching one client for several months who has a food product that he manufactures. I was helping him grow the business. Currently, he has a very small capacity but he is large enough to service the local market and bring in an adequate income for himself and an assistant. I found him a buyer for his product in China at roughly 20 times his capacity. Instead of pulling out the proverbial bottle of champagne you could hear him whine all the way into the next town. In his mind it was impossible, he would have to expand, move his facility, hire more people. What a dilemma! The problems became insurmountable and depression set in.

Now let me get this straight, I find him a new untapped market who will love his product, the initial order of 10 containers and the ongoing sales will make him a millionaire in one year and he is upset? What is the downside? The reality is that he can’t think that big. I was beside myself because all I could do was think of the potential. I even figured out how to get to the larger capacity with more staff and a revolutionary manufacturing process that would allow him to dominate the market if he could manage the Chinese deal.

Is my client wrong not to go for the big prize? Is the end goal of business massive growth and money in the bank or does each entrepreneur have a comfort zone they can’t or don’t want to go past?

I must admit, as I grow older, I have less and less interest in working the many hours I worked in my thirties and it is rare to find huge successes without long hours. I remember reading my client’s business plan and I specifically remember the goals he had in mind for his new startup. They were modest but certainly attainable and they surpassed where he was now in this stage of his business by a wide margin.

He was comfortable in his ‘smallness’. I had handed my 30 something client the key to the candy factory and he made me feel like I had given him a death sentence.

With this theory in mind, I investigated more and found another of my clients was in the same boat. I had felt the beginnings of push-back with some of my suggestions during our mentoring sessions but didn’t put it into words until my friend had pointed out the ‘smallness thing’ to me. My second client fit the persona perfectly. Content to be making a living, self-employed; growth scared the hell out of him too.

There is help for the second guy but the first guy presented me with the perfect answer to his problem. I’ll cease my mentoring of him and cut him out of the equation altogether. I will find a supplier who can fill my massive order and I will make all the money. Wow!

There is nothing wrong with being self-employed, millions are and happy to have created a job for themselves. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, find subsistence levels stifling and unappealing. We want the risk and the rewards.

If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen – Now; what is the number of my export contact!

Gary is CEO of Bizzo Management Group Inc.,VanAsia Capital Corp., and Bizzo Integrated Marketing Corp. in Vancouver. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018. He is an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Marketing & Communications, as well as, Consumer Behavior at the New York Institute of Technology, MBA School of Management (Vancouver Campus). Gary can be reached at ceo@garybizzo.com


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