Hamartia - entrepreneurs' greatest strength & achilles heel

Ed Marsh | Sep 6, 2013
Hamartia -  ha·mar·ti·aˌ hämärˈtēə/  noun
  1. a fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero or heroine
A cool word deserves a blog post - particularly because I've bumped into lots of it lately.

You're not a Hamartian...are you?  Do you let experts help you build on your awesome?

Determined & focused

You know the character (our tragic hero(ine)) - eyes slightly sunken from chronic fatigue (20 hour days); eyes darting, not manifesting boredom with you, but rather simultaneous processing of 4 or 5 major trains of thought; rapid, purposeful stride or languid head-down smart phone shuffle; a life held together by evernote; and a mind identifying and defeating big business issues all while delving into some esoteric hobby to an astounding level of expertise; punctuated with ventis and microbrews.

It's your typical entrepreneur - hipster or reformed hippie, it doesn't really matter.   Inspiring and infuriating - depending on how well you know them and how tortured your relationship is with them.  Capable of astounding feats and stupendous stumbles.

Among these stereotypical attributes there's one more...which is counter productive.

You can't do that!

How many times is an entrepreneur told that what they are chasing is silly, impossible, absurd, etc?  It's incessant.  Family, friends, prospective investors, frustrated employees and many others consistently deliver the message.  Sometimes it's oblique "Have you thought of plan B?" and others blunt "Are you f*)$ing nuts?"  But the message is consistent.  

What you are trying to do can't be done!

But lookie here...the entrepreneur who was told repeatedly what was impossible now has a prototype, a full version, a production run, investors, a company, employees, a whole business!  It worked after all - even though every expert and knuckle dragger alike predicted failure.

So we need to cut our entrepreneur some slack - they have achieved against the odds and prevailed.  And they've now been conditioned to reflexively disregard any counsel that suggests there is a challenge which they can't overcome.

I can do that!

business development fails by entrepreneursBright, talented, determined and driven people can intuit their way through lots of challenges.  Not only have they done what they've been told they couldn't, but in early stages they've worn hats and undertaken tasks in disciplines well outside of their primary competence.  They've learned by trial & error - and again prevailed.

But here's the hitch - not every challenge has an intuitive solution.  And those which don't are doubly bedeviling for the determined entrepreneur.  Not only can't they overcome the challenge as deftly as they presume, but additionally they lack the perspective to realize the inadequacy of their solution.

Enter the real expert, who knows how to truly overcome the challenge (let's say, selecting purely random examples, creating a strategic global business development plan, or perhaps an integrated digital marketing strategy) only to be rebuffed by the overconfident entrepreneur.

And here's where hamartia strikes.  The very attribute which allowed the entrepreneur to prevail against dreadful odds and despite all the naysayers becomes the flaw which prevents them from accepting sound, creative advice which would substantially improve their business.

You're right...but with expert guidance it will be done correctly

So just because you've happened to sell to a couple other countries (probably by accident, truth be told) you don't have an international strategy.  Yet global sales could be core to your future growth.  

Similarly, your website doesn't demonstrate success in digitally marketing your business - no matter how long you obsessed over the design or how much you paid your designer.

Just as any imposter can slide an x-ray under the clip on the light board, anyone can claim rudimentary competence in various fields.  But there's a big delta between that and expertise.  

Don't be a Hamartian!

So the question is....can you check your ego and take advice from folks who can do things better than you in certain niche areas?

Your call - after all it's your business success or mediocrity.  If the latter is unpalatable, then let's talk about how to really #SellMoreHere & #SellMoreThere.

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image credit memegenerator