The entrepreneur is a modern day hero, capable of attaining celebrity status, inspiring aspirants to flock to the entrepreneurial path in their droves. The perception of the Lone Wolf entrepreneur is so embedded in the popular consciousness, that one only needs to mention the names – Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg and the reader will instantly know the name and nature of the business founded by each respective entrepreneur, as well as some knowledge of their life stories.
The narrative of this phenomenon suggests that successful entrepreneurship is a journey taken alone, with the fortunes of each venture resting purely on the broad shoulders of a charismatic figurehead. Granted – the entrepreneurial journey can often be an isolated and lonely experience, but it is certainly not one taken alone.
This cult of personality surrounding entrepreneurialism is appealing and great from a PR perspective, but misleading and disheartening to aspiring entrepreneurs who measure themselves against this unrealistic standard of achievement, wasting a lot of valuable energy in the process.
Often the most short-sighed and difficult entrepreneurs to work with, swear by the ‘lone wolf’ mentality. They confuse the quality of being a visionary with being a dictator. This approach stifles creativity and innovation from the people building the business alongside them, closing them off from genuinely creative ideas which could promote growth.
Successful entrepreneurs understand that:
- They are visionaries who are able to lead, and have the ability to take others along with them.
- It is important to trust their personal insights and to know when to ask for advice
- An essential aspect of business success is the quality and qualities of their collaborators.
Innovative and creative businesses grow as a result of collaboration and sustainable entrepreneurial success is derived from leveraging the combined skills and experience of a varied support network. This network consists of the following key collaborators:
Finding someone who can offer accountability, advice and guidance from a perspective of knowledge and experience is an invaluable part of the entrepreneurial learning curve. Select your mentor on the basis that they have personal traits and achievements that you admire and wish to emulate. This will ensure a key relationship which will help you to deal with the inevitable setbacks, mistakes and challenges from someone who has been there, designed the T Shirt and sold it for a fortune.
Your Peer Network consists of entrepreneurs at the same stage and therefore going through the same experiences as you are, making this group the perfect mastermind group. The collaborative potential from this group also extends to growing your business in a more direct way. Within your peer group lies complimentary goods and services which can help grow your business, meaning that your peers can add value to your business as Associates or through referrals.
Your advisors consist of specialists in the crucial functional areas of your business, such as finance, marketing and business development. Your advisors hold the important function of being your ‘Board’ in an official or unofficial capacity, in that you consult them for key strategic issues and decisions. They constitute your inner circle and for this reason it is essential to make your choices on the basis that they are champions in their field and are as passionate about what they do as you are.
Your colleagues consist of anyone in your team – ranging from your virtual assistant to your right-hand person. Effective entrepreneurial organisations enable ideas to thrive and flow, and people are given credit for their input. Create an environment where people can contribute and where their contributions are valued. Encouraging and being open to ideas from any ‘level’ of your business gives people more of a sense of ownership and empowerment.
Whatever goods or services you happen to provide, you are ultimately doing so in service of your customers. Without your customers, there really is no point to you doing what you are doing at all! Those who lose connection with the idea of serving their customers, do so at their detriment – resulting in a situation akin to delivering your well-rehearsed monologue on a large stage to an empty auditorium.