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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