3 Top Ways For Entrepreneurs To Damage Their Business

June 4, 2019 Chris Pearse

Chris Pearse Contributor I write about the realities and challenges of leadership.


In this article we look behind the scenes of entrepreneurial failure – beyond the usual suspects of poor finance, marketing, product design, execution and management.

These well-known and researched syndromes can be manifestations of a deeper malaise with its roots in the mindsets and belief-systems of the entrepreneur themselves – their inner dynamics. Here are just 3 ways in which entrepreneurial thinking can derail the success of their enterprise, without too much effort:

1. Identification

When the enterprise assumes an importance in the mind of the founder that reaches beyond certain thresholds, the life of the entrepreneur can become unbalanced. Particularly when the business experiences early success, the founder can very easily start to invest their being in the enterprise to the point of identification – to an extent, they become the business and the business becomes them.

When the business is challenged ideologically, operationally or financially, so is the entrepreneur, and that challenge may be experienced as an existential threat through their identification with it. This is why some entrepreneurs defend their businesses so vigorously in the face of any opposition or criticism . Travis Kalanick is not the only example of an entrepreneur that has found it difficult to separate themselves from the business they built.

Now, identifying with the enterprise is a very different proposition from investing one’s energy in it. The latter respects the need to experience a full life beyond business and allows the founder to develop in a rounded way, contributing to family, community and society, not just the enterprise they gave birth to.

2. Growth Without Growth

It is often a consequence of identification that the founder expects the enterprise to grow whilst paying no attention to her own growth. So as the business develops and becomes more complicated and complex, the entrepreneur blithely neglects his own development as a peripheral activity that will take care of itself.

This is rather like expecting the family car, that gets you down the street, to continue its journey off-road, fording streams, climbing mountains and crossing seas. And yet that is exactly what many entrepreneurs do: they expect that whatever got them to where they are, will get them to their lofty goals and dreams.

Of necessity this applies to the mechanics of business: finance, sales, marketing, operations. But development of the entrepreneur’s inner dynamics has far more impact. Mindset, belief-systems, behaviours, emotional intelligence, can all make the difference between success and failure when the going gets tough – which it will.

The development of self-awareness will go a long way to giving the entrepreneur the resilience, discipline, insights and perspectives to “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs”.

Only when we can lead ourselves are we fit to lead others.

3. Dilution Of Purpose

The more aligned the activities of the business are to the entrepreneur’s purpose – conscious or not – the more integrity and authenticity the business will exude. This is not to pass judgement on the quality of purpose, simply to acknowledge that resonance between the two strengthens the enterprise immeasurably.

But when adversity strikes, such as a cash flow issue, the business priority can quickly turn to safeguarding income, over and above delivering its value. Over time this establishes a tendency to favour income over output. The result is a constipated business that fails to deliver its true value to the world.

Skewed priorities dilute the very purpose upon which the enterprise was founded and erosion of these foundations inevitably further compromise the health of the business.

These imbalances are present to some extent in all human endeavour but the more aware the entrepreneur is of these dynamics, the more likely they are to avoid the undesirable consequences.

I help leaders accelerate their development and impact through a deepened awareness of our inner dynamics – the belief systems and emotions that shape our leadership. Discover more here…

Chris Pearse Contributor

I am an Executive Coach to leaders across diverse sectors including FTSE100s and SMEs. I am also an Interim CEO.