By Stan Garber, president of Scout RFP.
There’s a lot you can learn about yourself when building a company as a co-founder. One of the most prominent is your weaknesses when it comes to managing said company. While having weaknesses isn’t necessarily a bad thing, being aware of them is vital to your business’s success. That said, here’s how I turned my professional shortcomings into the building blocks needed to grow my business ventures.
Pinpoint your weaknesses.
It’s easy to know your strengths — you’ve probably been recognized and praised for them for most of your life. My strong suits are presenting ideas and pitches, selling products or concepts, and fundraising. These traits have helped me successfully co-found businesses and get projects off the ground.
Of course, strengths are balanced out by weaknesses, and as my co-founders and I dove into the development and early-stage growth of our company, I quickly discovered mine. I learned that I’m not so great at the organizational and operational side of things. However, I wouldn’t have known those specific weaknesses unless I was challenged to do them in this setting and was honest with myself about needing improvement.
Mind the gaps.
This is a big one: Surround yourself with the right people from the very beginning. What does that mean exactly? When hiring for your new venture or finding your dream company’s co-founder, don’t look for a carbon copy of yourself. Instead, seek out someone who will complement you, someone who you respect and work well with, but who will also challenge you and compensate for your weaknesses.
For instance, one of my co-founders is excellent in all of the detail-oriented areas where I fall short. Those are his strengths. Having this balance between us is what makes us a brilliant team.I’ve learned firsthand that having the right people around — you whose strengths are your weaknesses — will be a benefit for all involved. You will be able to learn from them in ways you didn’t know were possible just by watching them in action.
Take note of not only how they conduct these behaviors on a large scale, but also of day-to-day tasks. You will pick up on practices and attributes that you can then apply to your own work, which will only make your business stronger as a whole.
Engineer ways to learn.
If you’re signing up to found a company, complacency probably isn’t one of your weaknesses. However, it’s important that you keep up the learning momentum, even when it seems you have no time to spare (“spare-time scarcity” is an ailment that most entrepreneurs suffer from).
Take the time to network with other business-savvy individuals and find a mentor who will not only guide you, but challenge how you operate. This will give you new insight into how to develop your weaknesses into helpful assets — or maybe even strengths — that contribute to the workplace you’ve built.
Be active in your industry’s community. I helped facilitate the founding of an expertise group around the industry that our company is focused on. This community is a place where professionals network, challenge the status quo, and learn from each other. Attending the group’s events and speaking to its members has been one of my greatest learning opportunities since founding our company.
Remember, there’s no shame in having weaknesses as a business leader. Everyone — yes, even Elon Musk, Marc Benioff and Evan Spiegel — has them. They’ve just discovered and addressed their weaknesses in order to build strong, innovative companies. You can too by surrounding yourself with the right people, keeping a pulse on your weaknesses, and staying hungry when it comes to learning and improving.
Stan Garber is the president at Scout RFP and sets the marketing and growth strategy.