In his book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ben Horowitz discusses the hardest things about building and running a business. One of those “hard things” is that as the CEO or founder of a business, you know things that no one else knows, so you have a perspective that no one else has.
We find that this unique perspective of advisory firm owners is often a two-edged sword. It enables them to make the best decisions for their businesses, but it also means that other people inside and outside their business often don’t understand—or buy into—their ideas. Not only does this make the owner’s job a lonely one, it also can erode their confidence, which is their single most important asset.
To help owner-advisors maintain their confidence (or to get their confidence back) and make good business decisions, we suggest they consider these four guidelines:
1) Don’t Turn to People Who Know Less Than You Do
As a business owner or CEO, you don’t need a consensus or buy-in from your employees or clients or anyone else. The idea of being a “visionary” is that you see things that other people don’t. Of course, we encourage getting input from people inside and outside of your business about key decisions. But it’s the leader’s job to decide what information is useful, and what isn’t.
When leaders hold off on their ideas waiting for a “consensus,” the conditions that made their “idea” a good one at the time often change. The delay can thus make those ideas less good, or even bad.
2) Don’t Seek Approval
When business owners lose confidence in themselves, they often seek approval from their spouse, social group, colleagues or employees. They want to hear that other people think what they’re doing is okay. But just as with a consensus, the people they are seeking approval from know less about their business than they do themselves. Consequently, their approval or disapproval isn’t really helpful.