The Wisdom of (Small) Crowds

Scratch the surface of most (go on, I dare you) and you’ll find…a scratch-resistant surface. Most entrepreneurs have hard shells. As the pop culture stereotype goes, you gotta be tough to be an . Not just tough, but a lone genius or a rugged individualist. Most of us are accustomed to going it alone.

Maybe you’re familiar with the Peter Principle. It holds that employees are promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. But plenty of entrepreneurs doggedly work their way up to incompetence, too. It’s something called Founder’s Syndrome. Here are the symptoms, per Wikipedia:

  • The founder makes all decisions, big and small, without a formal process or input from others.
  • Decisions are made in crisis mode, with little forward planning.
  • Staff meetings are held generally to rally the troops, get status reports, and assign tasks.
  • There is little meaningful strategic development, or shared executive agreement on objectives with limited or a complete lack of professional development.
  • There is little organizational infrastructure in place, and what is there is not used correctly.
  • There is no succession plan.

Does this sound like you? No founder can succeed without “working on the , not in the business,” as Michael Gerber’s business classic The E Myth describes it. Yet the vast majority of US business owners don’t take the time to step back and examine their strategy, ask the big questions, or seek out the opinions of our peers or outside experts.

Very few of us have a board of directors or even an informal . (There are companies who offer “virtual” advisory boards, but over the years I found many of these to be prohibitively expensive or run by people without the kind of entrepreneurial experience I sought.)

So entrepreneurs can be a little…secretive. Not surprising really: many of us start companies so we don’t have to answer to anyone else. There are plenty of chips on entrepreneurial shoulders. This can lead to some less-than-productive behaviors, such as bottling everything up and feeling as though we should have all the answers. Many founders’ families–even their spouses–have no idea what’s keeping them up at night.

So what’s a rugged individual to do?

Entrepreneurs Assembly is a business-support organization born in the Great Recession. It’s a non-profit, where members get to experience expertly facilitated round-table discussions about their biggest issues, the stuff of insomnia.

EA’s motto is “Founders Helping Founders,” and it’s clear to see that the magic of these round tables is a set of fresh ears and fresh brains who can help you think differently. Even if it’s just for a few hours once a month. EA members help each other identify blind spots and remove road blocks.

Of course, you’ll leave the meeting with “marching orders” for the next 30 days. And suddenly, you’ll rediscover the beauty of accountability. (You said you were going to terminate that toxic employee in last month’s meeting, and your peers are waiting to hear how it went. No wiggle room. You can’t pull that “I’m the boss” card to explain why you postponed the inevitable…again.)

Best of all, few of those crucial “marching orders” require that you spend any money. EA Founder Matt Westfield keeps members focused on their customers. You’re going to spend some time, certainly, but some of the most profound changes you can make involve talking to people and doing research. Engaging with your customers or your marketplace.

At every meeting I see resources shared: a or another member provides an email or phone number for a key contact that can provide help. Someone writes down a book or blog to read, or suggests an app to try. Some of the resources are so laser-focused, so ridiculously relevant for the individual involved, it’s hard to believe the serendipities. But that’s what happens when you leave your hard shell behind and get real, and really honest, with other people who are on the same path. And by the way, confidentiality is a sacred vow to EA members.

The founders of EA saw a huge gap and are busily filling it, with chapters in Reno, South Lake, Incline and now , where the meeting is held in The Studio at Adams Hub, 177 W. Proctor. And did we mention that there’s no charge to take part?

Our final meeting of 2016 is being held November from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. is your chance to “work on, not in” your business. For more information, email grow@adamshub.com, or call us at 775.222.0001. You can also visit www.ea-nv.org.