If you are an entrepreneur, then you have invested time, effort, and money into your business. If your business is successful, then you know that success does not come easy and was most probably the result of hard work and countless hours. So, it is very unlikely you would sabotage that hard work in any way.
Working with many start-ups, I often find that businesses start failing when owners unwittingly sabotage their own entity - only realising it when it’s too late.
When I first embarked on my entrepreneurial journey some years ago, I was one of those types; I wish someone had stopped me back then, before some of my promising small businesses went down the drain.
Here's hoping the tips below will spare your business any unnecessary drama and stop the damage before it’s too late:
1. You are not necessarily the smartest person in your business
You may be the brightest spark in the room - after all you were able to visualise and build your business - however, your role is not to constantly prove you know everything, or to centralise the decision process. As the leader of your business, your role is to help your team to excel in their roles. A good leader listens to their team members, learns from them and helps them grow the company. If you don’t delegate, you will end up doing all the heavy lifting yourself, creating a culture of dependent team members in the process.
Looking back, when I was in university and assigned group projects, I voluntarily took the lead to ensure all the work was done. While I was confident things were done my way, and were “perfect” in my eyes, I ended up taking on all the load. While my team members earned high grades, they did not really know how the project had been put together.
The same thing applies to business. What happens to your business if all the decisions are centralised and you fall sick or have to take urgent leave? This is how promising businesses fall behind - something I have seen many times. You have to take charge, that’s for sure, but let your team members assume ownership as well.
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2. Don't limit the idea-generation process to a few team members
This is one of the first valuable lessons I learnt from my mentor - how he involved every team member in his company in the idea generation process. When he was brainstorming a new product, instead of limiting this task to the 10 managers who reported directly to him, he expanded that pool to include junior employees as well. The result was beautiful. Not only did he end up receiving innovative business ideas, his team’s morale was boosted, as they felt a sense of ownership. and they were more productive.
3. Ignoring the economy and market trends
Kodak is a textbook example of a company that refused to innovate and embrace digital photography when it started becoming more mainstream. Refusing to adapt to market changes, led them to bankruptcy. While it is sad to see a business of that scale fall, there are steps you can take to avoid a similar scenario.
Always engage in a conversation about the economy and market with people outside your company. Ask your clients, your target audience, your friends, and even your barber. what is happening. Seek their feedback, by asking, for instance, how they see your business in three or five years.
Ask them what could be improved, and what would make them loyal customers. Digital devices are an extension to our bodies, so evaluate how your business could reach your customers in the most digital friendly way. Evaluate your website, app and social media pages. While some circumstances are unforeseen, staying ahead of the game will lessen the severity of the hit.
Though self-sabotage comes at a steep price, it is always good to learn from our mistakes, and that’s the beauty of entrepreneurship - it’s a constant learning and growing process.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi.