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Entrepreneurs Often Make Bad Managers – But There Are Ways to Overcome That

4 Mins read

Entrepreneurs are both curious and impatient, with minds always racing. They are also willing to take risks, following those gut instincts that tell them that their ideas will succeed if they just keep at it. They are always on the field, never on the sidelines.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you have any number of traits pointing you in the direction of entrepreneurial success, you may be lacking in a key area – managing employees. That’s a weakness for many entrepreneurs and may even be a task you vehemently dislike, at least in part because managing employees takes valuable time away from what you prefer to focus on – product creation and sales.

I can identify with anyone who finds this particular responsibility a struggle. Early in my entrepreneurial journey, managing employees was not in my DNA. If an employee screwed up and failed to deliver 100% customer success, my first reaction was not to help that employee improve their performance. Instead, I wanted them fired on the spot. Maybe you have that instinct, too. After all, we entrepreneurs are born with passion, and it can be a challenge to calm that passion down when we get upset.

Still, employees need to be managed and managed well  – either by you or by someone else. Otherwise, the business could face trouble. One survey by Q1 Joblist showed that 28% of people who quit their previous job did so because of bad managers.

That’s one of the reasons why, when you launch a new business, the most critical hire is the first hire – someone who can serve as your COO. That person should be as passionate about your business as you are, but they also should be able to take on roles that you can’t fill – or that, as founder and CEO,  you choose not to fill.

The duties of the COO would include hiring additional employees (although you have the option to finalize those hires), overseeing those employees, and firing an employee when or if that becomes necessary.

As your business grows – let’s say you reach 50 employees and $1 million in sales – you should also add a human resources director to further aid with employee engagement and needs.

But here’s the thing. Even with a COO and an HR director to oversee employee-related issues on a daily basis, you should not remove yourself completely from employee interactions. It’s still your responsibility to lead your employees with direction, empathy, expertise, and customer engagement. Like it or not, you have to get entrenched with your people.

If your skills are still lacking in that area, you have work (and maybe homework) ahead of you. A good place to start is to read books on effective leadership. I love anything by Simon Sinek, who is the author of such titles as Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.

Another book I always recommend is StrengthsFinder 2.0, published by Gallup. This book can help you (and other entrepreneurs) learn the top five CliftonStrengths, which are the areas where you have your strongest natural talents. Learning my CliftonStrengths changed not only my management style but also my company culture.  I also had all my employees take the StrengthsFinder test as well. Why? It allowed my team to focus on what everyone did best, and we made sure their positions were aligned with their strengths.

Here are a few other things to consider as you try to manage others more effectively:

  • Keep mission statements brief. Businesses often have long, flowery mission statements, but how many employees can quickly and easily recite such a statement, or remember what their focus is supposed to be? I recommend keeping your mission statement short and simple – ideally five words or less. If your employees can’t remember your mission statement, it’s too long. The mission statement for my company, TNG Worldwide, is this: “100 percent customer success.”
  • Make employee handbooks detailed. Unlike the mission statement, the more information you include in the employee handbook, the better. But don’t make the handbook a bland recitation of benefits, policies, and rules. Strive to make it not just informative but inspirational, a reflection of what your company is all about. And be sure to update it regularly.
  • Work to improve corporate culture. Find ways to create a positive culture, a place where employees enjoy working and will want to stay. There are a number of ways to do this. For example, add team spirit to your company. Think college sports and you get the idea. At my company, we even created a team mascot and a company fight song. You can also plan special events, such as a monthly or bi-monthly company lunch where you grill in the parking lot. Or set up rewards to celebrate company accomplishments. For example, hand out $100 bills once a quarter if sales are good. And if they are really good, take everyone to Costco and give them a set amount to shop for 30 to 45 minutes.

I love sports analogies, so let’s end with one: Your employees are the players on your team, and just like the players on a football, basketball, or other sports team, they need to practice and train to keep their skills at a high level.

That’s why it’s important to ensure employees get the coaching and leadership they need – even if managing employees isn’t your favorite thing.

Larry Gaynor (, author of Take a Chance!: 101 Entrepreneurial Lessons for Making It Big, is the founder and CEO of TNG Worldwide, the beauty-product supplier whose best-selling signature brands include ForPro Professional Collection and Ginger Lily Farms. TNG manufactures more than 1,000 products in several countries and launches between 50 and 100 new products annually. Gaynor has won numerous awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Entrepreneurs stock image by Niels Hariot/Shutterstock

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