4 Life Lessons in Objectivity for Entrepreneurs

performer typeWhether paralyzed by fear, blinded by a lack of self-awareness or oblivious to fundamental economic shifts happening around us, it is no wonder businesses are failing.

But some critical self-evaluation and a recognition that the recession and internet are driving a wealth transfer can help struggling business owners, said Liam McNamara, MD of MCN Associates, Dublin.

A life-long entrepreneur, McNamara freely acknowledges his ups and downs — “been there done that. Had successes in it, had failures in it.” He was speaking at the August Entrepreneurs Anonymous, a monthly meetup for early stage entrepreneurs in Dublin.

His toughest period came in the late 1980s when he plowed the proceeds of a successful business in to another venture that failed and lost him several million pounds. The high-profile collapse of his company left him “unemployable,” he said. “The level of rejection [looking for work] was quite heavy.”

Struggling to keep his house and feed his young family, McNamara said, “I was basically living on charity.” He finally found his feet in 1990 when he got a job selling life insurance on commission only.

From there, he retrained and moved in to finance.

Be Objective

“Entrepreneurs are driven,” McNamara said. But “sometimes it’s good not to push” but instead “take a look at what you are pushing.” Some see business as a matter of life and death, he said. “If you do, there is a good chance it will kill you.”

“It could have killed me — not because of my failure but because of my approach to it,” he said. McNamara’s challenge now, he said, is convincing his clients to do likewise.

Manage Fear

In 1988, when his business collapsed, “fear overtook me,” McNamara said. But fear is all in your head. “It has no validity or substance because things have not played out yet,” he said. But fear takes it toll. Our bodies react with stress and sleep loss, and impedes judgment, he said.

Be Self-Aware

Managing a business in a recession is a challenge, especially managing cash flow, McNamara said. Debtors pay late and creditors are aggressive. “You need to understand the psychology of all that,” he said. “It is better to stand back and go away until you come to terms with the situation,” he said. Otherwise, those worries will bubble to the surface and can “come out in your sales pitch,” he said.

Know Your Skill Set

Citing a Cranfield University business study, McNamara said there are five key skill sets required to run a business:

  • Creative/conceptual
  • Commercialization
  • Operations
  • Marketing/communications
  • Financial

Entrepreneurs are likely to fall in to the conceptual bucket, and may have one or two of the other skills. “If you have more than that, I would like to talk to you,” McNamara said. The key then is to find others whose different skills complement your own. “If you haven’t all those cards on the table, go get them,” he said.

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