Cutting the corners

March 9th, 2014 → 8:43 am @

I bought a car for my children to use to practise driving. My daughter smashed in the rear, then the right hand side.  When she came home with the left side stove in, I asked her what had happened.  She snorted with 17 year-old derision. “They put the pillars in the mall carparks in such stupid places!”

She had, once more, been cutting corners.  She was a reasonably capable driver, and was fine on the open road.  When she got off the road, she immediately forgot about careful driving and began to focus on her next objective (usually buying stuff, or meeting her friends at the mall).

A lot of entrepreneurs show similar behaviours.  When they’re out selling, or pitching to investors they play by the rules.  They practise the trial close, the elevator pitch, and many other techniques of selling and build methodically toward their goals.  When they return to the office, they crash into operational pillars.

The pillars they hit are as predictable as the ones my daughter hit:

The recruitment pillar – rushing to hire “cool” people, who are not suited to the company

The product release pillar – releasing products before they are ready

The communication pillar – not keeping team members and shareholders up to date with what’s going on

…. and so on…  each one of them avoidable and, just like my daughter, the entrepreneurs hit the same pillars repeatedly.

And, like my daughter, they usually find someone else to blame because, they are no more interested in operations than she is in safe parking.  My daughter, thankfully, moved past her corner-cutting stage and began taking responsibility for all her driving behaviour.  Some entrepreneurs also begin to take responsibility for delivering methodically on all aspects of their business.  Others wisely recognise that they will never have a flair for operations, and hire managers to run their businesses.  But some keep cutting corners until a pillar collapses and their business fails.

There are entrepreneurs who are also careful, methodical operational managers.  But I have found these to be the exception.  Most need to learn how to deal with the ‘boring’ operational pillars.


Entrepreneur behavior