Feb 162012

beware the entrepreneur's blind side

Beware The Entrepreneur’s Blind Side

By now, most everyone, including entrepreneurs, has heard of the movie called The Blind Side, released in November 2009.  It’s about the touching story of Michael Oher, the offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, who when he was younger, was taken in by a family who helped him escape the hard-knock life he was born into.  The movie is based on the 2006 book The Blind Side:  Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis.

The “blind side” in American football refers to the area behind the quarterback’s back, when he is setting up to pass the ball down the field.  Since most quarterbacks are right-handed, the blind side is usually the area to their left when they’re facing the line of scrimmage.  The player on the offensive line who is charged with protecting the quarterback’s blind side, therefore, typically is the left tackle.  That’s the position Michael Oher plays and the reason the movie was given that name.

You may ask, what does the “blind side” have to do with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship?  Having been around the entrepreneurship game several decades now and having had the pleasure (usually) of getting to know a bunch of entrepreneurs quite well, I have come to realize that almost all entrepreneurs, especially very successful ones, also have a “blind side”.  They may have several, in fact, but there is one that is very common and stands out from all the others.  That blind side is their egos.  In particular, it’s the way their egos often cause them to have an insatiable appetite for recognition and accolades.

This blind side does not exist for all entrepreneurs, of course, but it exists for far more than most people realize.  Even those who play down their need for recognition and don’t appear to have a “monster ego,” when pushed, often reveal that it is just thinly veiled beneath the surface.

I say this not as an indictment of entrepreneurs.  I am an entrepreneur.  They are my people, and as I said earlier, it’s usually a great pleasure and sometimes even an honor to get to know them well.  Rather, I say this because far too many times, I’ve seen this ego-driven blind side be the source of entrepreneurs’ downfall.  When “too much is never enough,” financial ruin is often not far behind.

What can entrepreneurs do to fight this blind side tendency?  I think the best approach is to make sure they have a good “offensive line”.  They need a great “left tackle,” so that when they’re looking down the field, trying to make big plays, someone is watching their back.  They need a right-hand person, a consigliere, or a Michael Oher type character who knows what needs to be done to protect their blind side and who loyally gets the job done in a tireless manner.  This person can be a relative, an employee, an outside advisor, a nun, a monk; it can be whoever.  As long as the blind side protector is competent, focused, and tireless, it does not matter who is getting the job done.  In fact, if the job’s big enough, it may require a whole team of people to get it done right.

The key, regardless of whom the left (or right) “tackle” is, or how the blind-side-protecting-team may be comprised, is that the entrepreneur is willing to listen.  The entrepreneur does not always need to take the advise of his or her advisors, of course, but the entrepreneur should always be willing to listen and truly consider advisors’ recommendations.  If he or she does not respect their opinions, why have them around in the first place?

The impetus for this article is that I’m now right in the middle of watching an exceptionally successful client and friend allow his ego-driven blind side to get the best of him and potentially send him to financial ruin.  The errors in his approach are now obvious to most everyone but him.  I personally have been telling him to “punt” on this particular project for more than six years.  He hasn’t been able to do it, as his ego and sense of self-worth have become so inextricably linked with the success or failure of this (ill-fated from the start) project.  He did not listen to those trying to protect his blind side and now he is paying the price, and it’s a big one.

Don’t let yourself be the victim of a Lawrence Taylor type hit to your blind side.  Set up a strong group of advisors and heed their advice, particularly if you get the sense that your ego may be taking you down a disastrous path.

I look forward to your thoughts.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin



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  • Joel Carter

    Would an advisory board also be able to provide that protection? Great comparison.

  • Christine Brady

    Hi Paul,

    Couldn’t have said it better – you offer great insights on a really tough subject.

    Sometimes our egos are just chattering way too loudly to be able to sit up and listen to anyone or anything else.

    It’s a difficult exercise to be able to step away from our own mindset and allow outside elements in.

    But not impossible – a conscious effort to listen more is a good starting point.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • This is a great reminder for all of us that business is a team sport, and sometimes the wisest action is the one not taken. Even solopreneurs need a trustworthy support system to bounce ideas off of – a mentor or great business networking group can be a good start. Having just enough humility to realize we don’t know everything is a great way to keep our minds open to the brilliance of others.

  • Thanks, Joel. Yes, a well-chosen advisory board certainly could help with protecting the entrepreneur’s blind side. It’s often too big a job for just one person.

  • Thanks, Christine. Yes, it can be very tough for entrepreneurs to keep their egos in check. It’s a double-edged sword, of course, as a strong ego is also what usually gives them the drive to be successful. The key is to be self-aware and have a good team around to help keep the ego in check.

  • Thanks, Karleen. Yes, it’s key to have that support system in place and to be willing to listen.

  • Hi Paul,

    I would like to second what Christine said. As an entrepreneur it is incredibly hard to be an observer of what is going on with your business. You just have too much invested and see everything that you do as being a personal mission.

    Having a third party be able to keep you in check is a great thing. My wife serves this role for me, and it works out really well. Despite her having skin in the game, she is able to come at things with a different perspective, which is incredibly handy. As much as I don’t want to hear criticism about what I am doing, I need to be open to hear it!

  • Wendy L. Conger

    As the cliche goes, it takes two to tango. You should have a strong and united team for you to have a better output. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • Alexandre

    For me, the best person to do the works on the blindside is a mentor. Someone who is more experienced and knowledgeable in the field. The second one probably is a strict friend who does not mince words with you.

  • Geoff Vincent

    The entrepreneur’s willingness to listen, as you suggest, is the key. I’ve worked in several entrepreneurial environments and the CEO/Owner lacked self awareness about his own behavior or, worse, was actually very aware but didn’t care. In both cases, there wasn’t any financial ruin on the horizon but it did have a very negative impact on their employees and company performance (which is the profound irony).

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  • Nicole Schuman

    So true. This really shows that two heads are better than one. And all businesses should really have a team support.. 🙂

  • Janet

    Great article… Having someone protect your blindside in business seems just as important as it is in football. That person has to be strong and confident enought to tell you when your ego is opening up a vulnerability and to keep you in check.

  • Dianne

    Hi Paul,
    Every ideas that you left can bring a huge awareness to all of us in order to consider different factors in the field of business…

  • Timothy

    I agree with you. Entreprenuers needs someone they fully trust to remind them or to give them a different perspective in whatever they are doing. This will ensure that they will be able to see all factors or possibilities related to every decision.

  • Maryden25

    Hi Paul,
    Thanks for this insights. I agree that entrepreneurs has their ego that consumers must not know what truly happens on their businesses. As much as possible they want to maintain their status in the business industry. In this way, they can still come up with better ideas and strategies how to be on top.

  • Geoff

    It only means that we all have our limitations. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything about it. There’s a reason why right hand men, mentors as well as committees are in existence.

  • Erica

    Really found this post interesting! I’ll be pinning this on pinterest!

  • Walter

    That is actually one of the biggest enemy of any entrepreneur- himself. If he does not keep his ego in check, chances are he will commit grave errors that will ultimately affect his business.

  • Juliette Ayot

    This is really something amazing to know. Very artistically demonstrated with the help of image and explained so profoundly. This article is really imperative and impressive opening tactics one by one. “That blind side is their egos.” I totally agree with this as we need to keep away that so called ego to thrive forward otherwise sometimes that is the only cause for our disaster before the flight has taken place.

  • You make a very good comparision.

    It’s a hard balance with ego, isn’t it? Ultimately you need that self-confidence to succeed but it can lead to real problems if someone isn’t willing to accept that they can sometimes have bad ideas.

  • Sabrina

    The ego is one of the biggest weaknesses of any person, entrepreneur or not. This is the reason why we need a person who can remind us of what we overlook due to our ego.

  • Exactly, Richard. Confidence is important, but over-confidence can be very dangerous.

  • Thanks, Juliette. Happy you enjoyed the article and the metaphor.

  • Thanks, Erica. Happy you enjoyed the article! Paul

  • Agreed, Janet. The person protecting your blindside in business has to be strong-willed and sensible. It’s equally important in business as on the offensive line in American football. Paul

  • Good points, Geoff. Thanks for your comments. Paul

  • Agreed, Alexandre. The protector of the blindside must be strong and not worry about offending.

  • Excellent points, Marshall. Thanks for your comments. Paul

  • This is excellent advise!

  • Ariana Lemarr

    This is something wonderfully explained about an entrepreneur. Not only this there are many such sides that sometimes become blind side to people like me. I really appreciate the points that you have explained so explicitly. Good work and thanks for sharing this. 🙂

  • Hi Paul,

    This is a great topic. Every entrepreneur should listen to his mentors, critics, or even just from the feedback of other people. Though he is not entitled to follow every advice or believe to every criticism, he still should think about it and analyze what these people tell him. 🙂

  • Thanks for your comments, Ariana.

  • Thanks, Roxy.