By Peter Kozodoy
Some of my non-entrepreneur friends have told me that entrepreneurs have a unique mindset. Where some see risk, we see rewards. Where others have doubt, we have unbridled visions of glory. Ultimately, what separates entrepreneurs from what Mark Cuban calls "wantrepreneurs" is one simple thing: Entrepreneurs do, where others only talk about doing.
Ironically, the one thing entrepreneurs always do that gets them in trouble is the same thing that makes them successful in the first place. That is, while entrepreneurs should sometimes listen, consult, think or consider, they choose to act -- but sometimes too quickly, and sometimes with dire consequences.
I know this pitfall all too well. In fact, almost a decade into being an entrepreneur, I admit I'm still learning to hold back the reins. When an opportunity presents itself to solve a problem, I'm like a dog to a bone. Since I've had to learn this the hard way, I'm pleased to say there are ways to avoid acting too swiftly and enduring unnecessary pain in the process:
- Institute a mandatory waiting period. This is a tough one, but it's the kind of discipline that makes for a happy outcome. Pick a time. It could be an hour, a day or a week, depending on the size and scope of what you're doing. Even a few hours' worth of reflection has pivoted my outlook entirely and produced wildly different outcomes. For instance, when we were starting out and I was responsible for client services, I would respond immediately to illogical requests and insane asks, often starting an unproductive back-and-forth that wasn't good for the relationship. Now, I wait at least four hours before hitting "send" and have been amazed how different my responses turn out after that time to reflect. Trust me, patience is always better, no matter how hard it might be to wait.
- Put your decision-making steps into a process. Once you have a process, stick to it no matter what. Your process should outline what factors you consider, who to consult, how long to wait and more. If you check all the boxes, then proceed. If you haven't, then don't. We started laying out our own processes a few months ago, and now we've set a goal to put everything we do into a comprehensive "Process Binder." That way, everyone in the company will benefit from this important checklist concept.
- Ask yourself who may not like what you're about to do. I have the most trouble with this one. Since I often can't predict how other people will react, and I'm usually caught off-guard by someone who decides to pipe up after a decision has already been made (thanks, back-seat driver!). However, I've committed to being better at asking and re-asking myself who around me might care about the decision at hand. And just to be safe, I consult with them. As I said, it's a work in progress.
Ultimately, as doers we can't and won't please everyone. Some decisions have to be made and not everyone will like them. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs know that when we're putting our necks on the line to make decisions, it can be hurtful to have armchair quarterbacks second-guess them. That's a bummer and unfortunately, it comes with the territory we choose to pioneer.
But we also owe it to ourselves and to our team to take a step back, avoid gut reactions and consider every perspective. Remember: The only thing worse than making a good decision and being harassed about it is making a bad decision and being harassed about it. Let that be your guide the next time you feel compelled to act too quickly.
Peter Kozodoy is an author, speaker, serial entrepreneur and the Partner/Chief Strategy Officer at GEM Advertising.