Thoughts on startups by investors that
fund them & entrepreneurs that run them

How True Entrepreneurs Make Themselves Accountable

Everyone seems to like the aspect of being an entrepreneur that goes with “being your own boss” and “able to do things my way.” But sometimes they forget that this kind of freedom comes with a price of personal accountability. Accountability means “the buck stops here,” and “all the failures are mine.”

Too many people seem to do whatever it takes to avoid accountability, both before and after the fact. I suspect that this is largely caused by a fear of the unknown, and a lack of confidence in their own abilities. People with confidence problems and fear problems should avoid the entrepreneur role, since success without accountability is rare.

I’m sure you can think of better examples, but here are some comments that we have all heard from people who are trying to avoid accountability before the fact, who are setting themselves up for failure:

  • “I’d love to start a new company, but nobody will invest in me.”
  • “I’ll do the best I can, but the economy is totally unpredictable right now.”
  • “Investors always seem to put such unreasonable restrictions of me.”
  • “I can’t seem to find employees who are committed to my business.”
  • “Customer expectations these days can be unreasonable.”
  • “Every time I try outsourcing manufacturing, I get quality problems.”
  • “If there were just more hours in a day, I could get the job done right.”
  • “Investors want five-year projections, which is ridiculous considering all the unknowns.”
  • “My family expects me to always be there at a moment’s notice.”
  • “My biggest challenge is make sure everyone is carrying their weight.”

If you as the entrepreneur are willing to embrace accountability, here is how these same statements should come out:

  • “My idea is so big, I will bootstrap the business myself if I have to.”
  • “Even in a down economy, there are some things that everyone needs.”
  • “I really appreciate the real-world guidelines I get from my investors.”
  • “I couldn’t do this job without the full support of my team.”
  • “Exceeding customer expectations is my competitive advantage.”
  • “I select vendors carefully, and manage them well, to keep my costs down.”
  • “With limited time, I’ve learned to focus only on key issues, and delegate the rest.”
  • “I recognize that financial projections are commitments, so I don’t take them lightly.”
  • “With the support of my family, I can walk that fine line between family and business.”
  • “I trust my team, and I’m convinced that the total is more than the sum of the parts.”

If you are not yet ready to commit, you should consider getting more experience in your relevant business domain, or taking on a partner who has run a small business. Don’t assume that your perspective as an employee gives you a real view of the founder’s role. Also you shouldn’t assume that your experience in a large public company is applicable to running a startup.

Some entrepreneurs feel they can control other people by “holding them accountable.” This doesn’t work in the negative, because only personal accountability counts. It can work in the positive if you work in partnership with the team to get the outcomes you both seek, making you jointly accountable.

Entrepreneurship is all about assuming a risk for a reward, and accountability is core to generating the desired results. To make it work, you must trust yourself, your partners, and your startup. You should find there is a thrill and satisfaction to making decisions and standing behind them.

The next step is employee accountability. That’s the win-win combination that almost always leads to startup success. Are you there yet?

Written by Martin Zwilling

user Martin Zwilling Founder and CEO,
Startup Professionals

Martin is a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and angel investor. He is the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners.

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