How to Avoid Entrepreneur Dysfunction

Recently I watched a reality show on struggling businesses.  There was an entrepreneur that gained national exposure from an endorsement that literally changed the trajectory of the business instantaneously. The business had products people spent money on, an order fulfillment process, a production facility, a supply chain, and a highly skilled and competent team.   While these components seemed like a combination for success, the business was struggling tremendously.  Because how the team was led, and the company was run, the company's life became at risk.

Being the visionary, the chief overseer of the business, making critical business decisions and scaling a business are all common responsibilities of an Entrepreneur, business owner, and CEO. 

Being a busy entrepreneur, leadership is not top of mind while completing tasks more than likely is. Most entrepreneurs start off doing most of the work themselves.  Work that includes administrative, completing documents, researching, learning the customer, improving products and services, marketing, and monetizing.  Business growth stunts when an entrepreneur doesn’t evolve and grow with the business.  There comes a point in the business where you have to build a team, hire a manufacturer, partner with a larger distributor and/or secure financing. 

Being good at a particular skill or trade doesn’t necessarily make a good entrepreneur. Possessing the characteristics of an entrepreneur doesn’t create or maintain a successful business.  There are cycles of entrepreneurship that requires making adjustments to facilitate growth.    

Being aware of entrepreneur dysfunction can circumvent future problems or be a place to start addressing them.  

What is entrepreneur dysfunction? Entrepreneur dysfunction is similar to leadership dysfunction in that there are behaviors that derail the success of the business. While entrepreneur dysfunction may not be easily recognized, the business will ultimately reveal the results of it. 

Entrepreneur dysfunction is one of the biggest contributors to a struggling business.  You can be so deep in the trenches or too close to operations that you can’t see the blind spots.  Inability to see the holes in your business can slow momentum.  You may have an amazing business concept, a strong team, a product or service with a high demand.  With all of those promising things, still, cause the business to remain stagnant.  Likewise, you may believe you have a business concept that has proven it would be better off abandoned but you won’t let it go.  

Entrepreneurs solve problems, make improvements to existing products, add value to their customer's lives or business, create viable substitutes in the marketplace or fill a gap.  Eventually, you have a team to do these things. 

The mission can deviate from that by having tunnel vision and only seeing things one way, not listening to employees or sound advice, not putting the customer needs first, pushing your own agenda, not integrating technology into the business model, etc.  The reasons are endless. 

Below are some contributors to entrepreneur dysfunction

Inability to delegate. Not utilizing your human capital to the greatest capacity prevents entrepreneurs from operating in their greatest capacity.  You must stop trying to do and be everything in the business and be willing to pass off activities that take you away from your high payoff activities. 

Delegating is a simple yet challenging task.  It’s so much easier to say than to do.  But the act of delegating can save your business and your sanity.    

Listen to your employees, not micromanage them.  High performing employees need to be trusted to do their jobs.   They bring value to the organization along with ideas. Trust your employees–that’s why you hired them.

“It is always the start that requires the greatest effort.” – James Cash Penney, founder and CEO J.C. Penny

Maximize your employee’s strengths. Your employees are on your payroll for a reason.  They have been hired to work for you and with you because they bring additional value to the business.  Complimentary skill sets create a strong team. Utilize your employees.  Value your employees. Trust your employees.    


“Make your team feel respected, empowered and genuinely excited about the company’s mission.” –Tim Westergen, Pandora Founder

Be open to mentorship or coaching. Ego will prevent you from asking for help or hiring help.  Entrepreneurs that think they know everything can’t learn anything new.  To scale, add new products or services, enter new markets or acquire new clients will take different tactics from merely starting the business.  A 5-figure company differs from having a 6-figure business.  Likewise, having a 6-figure business differs from running a 7-figure or greater business.   

It’s important to think like a business.  Entering a new arena requires assistance.  Trial and error takes too long. 

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team” – Reid Hoffman, co-founder LinkedIn

Not willing to look into the mirror. Owning up to your shortcomings provides the awareness to make a correction.  For example, having a mindset of perfection hurts the entrepreneur, employee’s morale and productivity, and production time.  Not knowing when to take hands off and allow employees to do their jobs, explore technology that improves processes, or being willing to let go of anything that isn’t serving the business.  

Sometimes entrepreneurs can be so passionate that it hurts the business.  That passion can turn to perfection.  Having awareness gives the opportunity to make informed decisions that are beneficial to the team, customers, and business as a whole.    

If not, over time, the business will show visible signs of distress.  Those signs can include a drop in sales, inability to fulfill orders timely, employee burnout, employee discontent, and customer dissatisfaction.   

“The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake– you can’t learn anything from being perfect” – Adam Osborne

Inability to clearly articulate the strategy the business. If an entrepreneur is doing all of the work inside the business, then you lose sight of the strategic direction of the company.  This is the importance of a team to help execute the strategic plan.  This is where entrepreneurial leadership comes in.  Be able to communicate the vision and direction of the company in such a way that gets the employees excited about doing their part to contribute and all stakeholders onboard. A unified team is a winning team. 

Inability to Pivot. Recognizing when to shift can help mitigate potential problems that are detrimental to the business. All businesses experience challenges. You must know when to change course. Proactively paying attention to the position of the business allows you to stay ahead of potential threats to the business.  Pivoting allows you to move quickly to address these threats.  Be willing to ask yourself: do we stay on this course or do we need to make an immediate shift that aligns with the direction of the strategy. 

Entrepreneurs impact their business success.  It’s important to be mindful of daily decisions that influence the direction of the business.