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Attention Entrepreneurs: Compromise, But Never Compromise Your Standards A cautionary tale, and some questions to consider when collaborating and facing a major compromise.

By Carol Roth

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When you are working with others as a partner, service provider, co-worker or otherwise, it's important to be able to compromise. You will need to make concessions, and sometimes painful ones, for the sake of progress.

But while you may encounter situations where you need to compromise, you should never compromise your standards.

I have had many situations lately where this exact situation came up. The one that stands apart most vividly is when I had to "break up" with my first publisher.

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My draft manuscript for my first book -- all 80,000 words worth -- was finished in July 2009. I had a major publisher secured just a few months later (yes, I know that's the backwards route, but that's another story) and we had set a September 2010 release date.

I knew going in that a partnership with a publisher would require a lot of compromise. However, it was a bit more painful than I had expected.

My personal brand is bold and provocative and I wanted the book title to be consistent with my brand and message, while also having other key features. So, I submitted a list of a dozen potential titles, each with a lengthy reason for why it made sense, to my publisher.

The feedback was that not one of them was acceptable. But they had a better idea. They wanted to call it, The Rules for Entrepreneurs.

Not only was this the most boring title that I could think of, there was another problem: My book didn't have any rules for entrepreneurs. Not one. Not even part of one. I could just imagine being interviewed on television:

Host: "So Carol, tell us your top three rules for entrepreneurs."

Me: "Well John, I would love to, but I have no rules for entrepreneurs in my book."

I saw this as a huge problem. The publisher, not so much.

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I wanted to compromise, so I asked them to give me guidance. What was it that they didn't like about my title selections? What was it that they liked about The Rules for Entrepreneurs? Was it the use of the word "entrepreneurs" for SEO purposes? Was it a certain number of words? What worked and didn't?

Their response: "There's no special alchemy to coming up with a title. Either it works or doesn't."


They gave me 24 hours to come up with new titles. My team and I scrambled to come up with another half-dozen acceptable titles, each with its own deep reasoning explained in painstaking detail.

Again, the committee didn't like any of them. They came back with the super-amazing, The No-Nonsense Guide to Entrepreneurship.

Clearly, they did not understand my brand, my message or my purpose. Plus, "nonsense" is a word only used by Ned Flanders on The Simpsons. I would at least say "bullshit." I couldn't do it. The message was too important.

So, I asked the publisher, in the spirit of partnership, what the options were. It turned out that the options were to take one of their two proposed titles or to be released from my contract.

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This was one of the toughest decisions that I have ever had to make. I desperately wanted to get my message out into the market. I knew that breaking up with the publisher would have severe implications. It would delay publication for at least six months. Plus, I may be blackballed in the publishing industry, because who wants to sign a first-time author who just broke up with another publisher because they couldn't agree on titles?

I decided that I was willing to compromise, but not compromise my standards.

I set the intention that, come hell or high waters, the book would get published one way or another. We broke up. And within several weeks, I was fortunate to have three new publisher options present themselves and I chose to sign with one who better understood collaboration (and my brand). And this time, the book became The Entrepreneur Equation.

So, how can you decide when to compromise or when doing so would be compromising your standards? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you making the decision personally or emotionally? If you remove yourself and your emotions from the decision, does making the compromise make sense?
  • Does making the compromise get you closer to the intended outcome?
  • How will you feel about the end product after you make the compromise?
  • Is the product important enough to pick the battle or is there another more important battle to pick?

Hopefully, these questions will help guide you to decide when to compromise and when doing so would be crossing that line for you.

Related: The Right Way to 'Stalk' People Online

Carol Roth

Entrepreneur, TV host and small business expert

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, a “recovering” investment banker, business advisor, entrepreneur and best-selling author. She is also a reality TV show judge, media contributor and host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. A small business expert, Roth has worked with companies of all sizes on everything from strategy to content creation and marketing to raising capital. She’s been a public company director and invests in mid-stage companies, as well.

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