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The No. 1 Way Entrepreneurs Continue to Undermine Their Own Businesses

The very same things that can propel entrepreneurs to greatness, can also hold them back.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What qualities does it take to become a successful entrepreneur?


Fearlessness, determination, self-reliance, persistence, confidence -- the list of self-important, chest-thumping personality traits goes on and on. So, let’s consider the qualities that tend to make for unsuccessful entrepreneurs instead.

Fearlessness, determination, self-reliance, persistence, confidence ... yes, the very same things that can propel entrepreneurs to greatness, can also hold them back. So, what determines whether those traits are assets or liabilities? As in all things in life, it’s all about moderation. A cold glass of water can be a God-send on a warm day. A massive flood is never a good thing, no matter what the weather.

Related: How to Tackle It All in Your Business When There Is Just So Much to Do

And among business leaders, the cups runneth over with confidence and self-reliance. Don’t get me wrong, both qualities are inherently good things. But, an overabundance of one or both often leads small-business leaders to think they’re capable of doing it all on their own.

In the very beginning, some entrepreneurs have no choice but to shoulder excessive loads. Limited capital, inconsistent growth and 28-hour days will force many upstart entrepreneurs to become (very exhausted) one-man bands. But, even after the revenue starts streaming in, many entrepreneurs continue to do it all.

I’ve heard plenty of different theories about why so many entrepreneurs take the “Swiss Army” approach to leadership, but I think you can chalk it all up to just one simple character flaw: arrogance.  

By refusing to entrust even the smallest tasks to others, leaders express supreme confidence in their own abilities, and flat-out disrespect for those of others. Not only is it an ugly reflection of one’s egotism, it’s also just a lousy way to do business.

Related: Time Management Is Really Life Management

Leaders that overextend themselves wind up doing inconsistent, low-quality work, and locking their businesses into maintenance mode, rather than growth mode. Remember, just because you got a lot done this week, doesn’t mean you did any of it well. And it doesn’t mean it served to improve your business.

The most successful small-business owners have realistic views of their talents, weaknesses and bandwidths. They also understand that, for everything that doesn’t fall within their wheelhouse, there’s delegation. Delegation is essential for your business’s success for two reasons: 1.) Your time is limited. 2.) You aren’t always the best person for the job. Effective leaders thrive on humility and are never afraid to say, “I can’t handle this,” or, “I don’t know.” Delegation allows leaders to leverage the expertise of others, and use their own time more effectively.

Taking the plunge

Still, taking that first step toward delegation is a doozy. Giving up those first few scraps of agency to someone else can be terrifying. That’s why it’s always a good idea to start small. Begin by delegating a few routine, administrative tasks to a virtual assistant (VA). Things like travel arrangements, scheduling and routine correspondences are all time-consuming details that can be easily delegated to a VA. On our website, we’ve even put together a handy list of 25 tasks that you can delegate to an assistant today -- all with minimal amounts of panic and distress.

Related: How Not to Be Crushed by These 3 Types of Inevitable Entrepreneurial Stress

Once you dip your toes in, I guarantee you’ll find the water inviting. Before you know it, you’ll be plunging headfirst into delegation, and discovering how much more you can accomplish with the help of others.

Reaping the rewards

Effective delegation allows leaders to focus on the things that only they than do -- casting vision, strategizing and serving as the stewards of their company’s mission. When entrepreneurs are bogged down in the day-to-day details of bookkeeping, calendar management and project research, they’re robbing their businesses of a truly invaluable asset: their leadership.

Start doing what you do best, and leave the rest to your delegates.

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