The Sixth Entrepreneurial Sin — Envy

This week we start on the two remaining deadly sins of an entrepreneur. Envy and Pride are the strategic sins. The first two (Lust and Gluttony) are operational; they interfere with how you function as an owner and leader. The middle three, Sloth, Wrath and Greed, are tactical. They interfere with how you run your business.

The strategic sins twist your vision and goals for the business. The first of these, Envy, is defined in the dictionary as a feeling of discontent with regard to another’s advantages.

In our business owner peer groups, we ask new members after their first Board meeting what they took away from the experience. By far the most common answer is “I thought I was the only one experiencing problems in my business.” That’s envy, an unrealistic belief that the face other owners show to the world is entirely true, and that you are the only one facing challenges.

envy whyYou are guilty of Envy if you think everyone else has better employees than yours. If you believe that other owners are making more money, or have a better work/life balance than you, envy is a problem. The common envious phrase that I hear is “My problems are different. No one else has a business that’s as difficult as mine.”

It’s not true. I’ve consulted in hundreds of companies, and I have yet to see one that didn’t hit bumps in the road. Each has its own special challenges.

Take the construction trades for an example. The roofing repair contractors say “No one else is as weather dependent as we are. When it rains, we can’t work. When the sun shines, no one needs us.”

Electricians are the first on the job (to run power for everyone else) and the last to leave (installing face plates on a finished project.) The window contractors have to provide a finished (and fragile) product at an early stage of construction, but are expected to have it still look perfect after months of everyone else working around it.

I’ve heard each say that their issues are unique to their trade, which is true. They also say that no one else has challenges as great as theirs, which isn’t.

The business virtue that counters Envy is Knowledge. Knowledge is a three-legged stool. You need financial knowledge, legal knowledge and business knowledge to succeed in business.

Financial knowledge grows out of meeting with your accountant and banker more than once a year. They can provide a lot of insight into your business if you ask the right questions. How are others in my industry faring in this market? What metrics do you use when judging the credit worthiness of companies like mine?

Legal knowledge comes from talking to an attorney when issues are small, not just when you are afraid of a lawsuit. Do I need a contract for this? What will my possible liability be in this situation? Are there regulations or laws I need to be aware of?

Most business owners acknowledge that they need legal and financial advice. The biggest remedy for Envy, however, lies in the third leg of the stool — business advice. Accountants and lawyers aren’t typically entrepreneurs. Good business advice comes from business people.

There are lots of places to find business advice. Your trade group or professional association is the first place to look. There you’ll find others who deal with exactly what you face. The business departments of local colleges, the Service Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) and Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), both sponsored by the SBA, offer free counseling in most cities.

After five years as a member of peer groups and another two decades facilitating them, I admit to a prejudice in favor of getting business advice from other business owners. There is nothing more valid than real-life experience from folks who have “Been there — Done that — Have the tee shirt.”

Eighty percent of running a business is common to all businesses. We all deal with employee compensation and incentives, new technology, changing market conditions, competitors, regulations, vendors and customers. The other 20%, the part that generates revenue, is all that is uniquely yours.

If you don’t have a safe and confidential place to discuss your business with others who face the same issues, find one. It’s the only cure for Envy.

Thanks for reading Awake at 2 o’clock? Please share it with other business owners.

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