Your weaknesses will, in one way or another, cause you to fail. But learning through failure is a good thing. It teaches you about yourself, your business, your needs, and your necessary mindsets and disciplines to adopt.
Any weakness–if you look at it the right way–is a lesson. If you don’t know your blind spots, you’ll get into trouble as an entrepreneur by unknowingly making bad business decisions from time to time.
Strength, however, is the ability to recognize your weaknesses and stay one step ahead of them.
Here are a few signs to look out for so you can learn from your failures and utilize them for your benefit (and your company’s).
1. Not knowing yourself.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield had no idea who they were before they began Ben & Jerry’s. Initially, Jerry was trying to get into medical school, and Ben was trying to be a potter. After the friends realized they were failing at these quests, they took a different route.
You must know your weaknesses in order to shore them up. If you don’t know where your blind spots are as an individual, then you’re going to be in trouble: You won’t know who to hire or how to take your business to the next step.
2. Being overly eager.
While Ben & Jerry’s is incredibly successful today, a look at its flavor graveyard will demonstrate overzealousness and a willingness to experiment on the company’s part.
Be careful not to be so excited about your new venture that you don’t do your homework. Know your product, your marketplace, and what it takes to make a business successful.
3. Boasting a short history.
Even the seemingly untouchable Steve Jobs had to face his weaknesses, like when he was fired from Apple at the age of 30. He had a lot to learn about business, but he didn’t know what he didn’t know.
Be willing to acknowledge your lack of life and business experiences so you can focus on learning and growing. And if you’re lucky enough to have seasoned mentors around you, consider taking their advice; they probably possess hard-won wisdom and insight from which you can benefit.
4. Rushing things.
When Arianna Huffington was 23 years old, her second book was rejected 36 times. After applying for her first loan, she was able to continue her work and move toward her eventual success.
Businesses–and their leaders–aren’t built overnight. Be patient. Persevere. Don’t start a business just so you can sell it. Be completely dedicated to your company’s success while you’re leading it, regardless of how long it takes. Be the tortoise instead of the hare; more often than not, slow and steady does win the race.
5. Not following through.
Even when the Huffington Post initially began, it received lots of backlash, criticism, and mostly negative reviews. If Arianna and co-founder Kenneth Lerer hadn’t followed through on their work, despite the reviews, the website wouldn’t be the success it is today.
Keep your promises and stay the course–for the sake of your business and your reputation. Lack of focus and follow-through are deadly to an entrepreneur. The deck is already stacked against brand-new leaders; don’t add to those odds by neglecting to do what you say you’re going to do. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
6. Letting ego get in the way.
When Steve Jobs was fired, one factor was how hard he pushed the employees around him. As his friends point out, he wasn’t a great businessman, but he was an amazing visionary. He could be abrasive at times, but mostly because he didn’t tolerate mediocrity in others. He wanted to inspire his employees to be and do their best (though one could argue with his style and approach).
You can’t do it all yourself. You need people around you with skills that complement yours, and you need to be willing and able to pay those people for their services. After he returned to Apple, even Steve Jobs made a point of learning how to be a leader.
Do any of these weaknesses ring a bell? The first step is recognizing them in you.
Then you can learn to use them to your advantage.