Over the course of a long career advising and strategizing with entrepreneurs, I have noticed a trend, particularly amongst those driven by creativity and passion. For these creative types, it is that their biggest strength – the incredible creativity that sets them apart and drives them to pursue an opportunity – is often their biggest weakness in business.
I have gone deep with the owners of some of the coolest and most interesting business concepts around – the type of entrepreneurs who are doing phenomenal, creative and impactful things with their businesses. From the outside, it looks like they have a veritable goldmine. They are the businesses others look at and go, “why didn’t I think of that?”
However, as I get to peek behind the curtains (i.e., look at their financial statements), many of these “innovative ideas” are not being executed in a way that makes the entrepreneur enough profit to get by. Some aren’t making any profits at all.
High-touch vs. Systems
For many of the high-touch or creative businesses, the uniqueness that sets them apart is what keeps them from reaching the next level or even turning a profit. Instead of being focused on creating something that is perhaps slightly less unique, but scalable and repeatable, the entrepreneur is married to the complexity. They feel it would compromise their vision to streamline what they are doing. Often, that is at the expense of making money.
When a business has specialized high-touch services it is also difficult for them to be replicated, even by team members. This leaves the owner burnt out because he is working too many hours or is having a hard time teaching his staff to deliver on the value proposition. This also leaves the entrepreneur with a job, instead of a business.
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For some entrepreneurs, their unique product or service is in demand but only at a price point that won’t support the business’s viability. By requiring certain elements are done by hand, by an artisan or with a special material, they have priced their product or service out of the market. It’s a needed product or service, just not at the price that it would require to keep the entrepreneur’s vision intact.
So, what does an entrepreneur do when the vision that drives you is what’s keeping you from being successful?
Compromise has to happen.
If you are in this position, are you willing to let your creative vision inform you, but also to scale back some of the uniqueness for the sake of growing the business (or staying in business)? That is the million-dollar question.
I hope you can make that mindset shift. You don’t have to give up your values or your mission, but you may have to implement them in a way that cuts out the smaller details in order for the business to thrive.
The challenge is to do that in a way that is still appealing to the customer, as well as to you as an entrepreneur.
Ask yourself, “Is what’s setting me apart holding me back?” If it is, you need to decide whether passion or profit is your priority.
About Carol Roth
Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File ® legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.
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