Entrepreneur’s Disease: Is it Fatal?

What is it? Is it Fatal? And is there a Cure?

Many entrepreneurs suffer from ‘Entrepreneur’s Disease’ or ‘Founder’s Disease’: This is the inability to let go any aspect of your business, for fear of losing control.

The disease manifests itself uniquely in each individual; some might display more of one characteristic and less of another. The problem is nearly always fatal. It may take one year; it may take twenty years: eventually it will take its toll.

It’s heart-breaking to think that the person who loves the company the most, is the one who is most likely to kill it. As an entrepreneur myself, I am very aware of my own tendencies to display these characteristics, and, like a member of AA, there’s nothing wrong with falling off the wagon once in a while, as long as you keep working your steps and get back on top of the beast that is trying to ruin your company. The beast that lies deep within you and is lying in wait to claim the life of your organisation.

The reasons we display these characteristics are different for each person, but  mostly can be put down to a combination of insecurity and pride. Some business owners might justify this by saying that it’s the early stages of their business and it’s imperative for them to stay on top of every aspect of the new venture, but the truth is that this disease is not your friend.

Those characteristics you pride yourself in are the bane of your business, and are to blame for the trouble you keep getting into.


Some of the symptoms of someone suffering from Entrepreneur’s Disease are: 

1. Unteachable:

Patient won’t take advice from anyone.

Patient knows everything.

Patient always has a reason why the advice is invalid and should be ignored.

2. I’ll do it myself:

Patient works themself to death.

Patient refuses to delegate.

Patient doesn’t take holidays.

3. I Know Best:

Patient hires ‘yes men’ that won’t question them

Patient hires staff that are inexperienced

Patient has all the answers to every question

4. Can’t Say No:

Patient has too many great ideas and can’t say no to any of them

Patient can’t prioritise so the team runs around trying to do everything at once

5. I’m Never Wrong:

Patient refuses to admit they might be wrong.

Patient is reading this right now and thinks, ‘Luckily this doesn’t apply to me.’

What you can do

There’s no cure for Founder’s Disease, but there are things you can do to manage it. Just remember it’s going to take a lot of commitment to manage these weaknesses that are undermining your success.

1. Humility:

Patient needs to say ‘I have the best team out there, I can’t do it without them’ at least three times a day.

A study was done years ago by Harvard Business Review on the oldest and most successful companies in the USA, and the character trait they found most prevalent in the CEO’s of each company was humility. CEO’s said that it was their amazing team, management and staff that led to the success of the company and took no credit for themselves.

2. Let Your Staff Fail:

Patient needs to say ‘Why don’t you give it a bash, shout if you get stuck.’

Your staff will learn through their mistakes, they will also feel a sense of ownership and responsibility that comes from being trusted.

3. Trends:

Patient needs to say ‘Maybe this strategy isn’t working for me anymore, maybe I need to change something in my life to see a different result this time.’

Are the same issues coming up in your business time and again? Maybe life is trying to tell you something? Maybe it’s not everyone else: maybe it’s you.

4. Ask for help by Delegating or Outsourcing:

It’s impossible for one person to have all the skills and abilities required to run a business on their own. Inevitably, you will neglect one or more areas that you have no prior experience or affinity with. Patient needs to say ‘I’m not sure, what do you think?’ at least three times a day, and not to the mirror!

One of the areas I’ve seen many entrepreneurs battle with is marketing and sales.

Most business owners are experts in their line of work, whether it is machinery or human behaviour, they know who their customers are and what they need. The challenge they face is how to find more customers and how to reach them cost effectively.

This isn’t the 80’s, a time when budgets were unlimited and more champagne flowed at business lunches than tears at Oscar Pistorius’ bail hearing.  These days businesses have to turn every marketing cent over twenty times before committing it, and then they can only afford to spend on channels that show a definite return on investment.

Outsourcing your sales and marketing might seem far-fetched, but many successful entrepreneurs and established businesses are doing just that. By bringing in a team of highly trained professionals, the business owners can focus on what they’re good at (which is running their businesses) while the marketing team can focus on what they’re good at (which is bringing in new business).

Digital channels can be very effective ways of reaching new customers without breaking the bank, and the nice thing about being online, is that everything is measurable, so you know just what your marketing money is doing for you.

Outsourcing sales is also fairly new to most entrepreneurs, but has provided excellent results for those business owners who admit they don’t like selling, and who happily engage with a company to find leads, qualify them, meet them and close the sale on their behalf.

Doing everything yourself is so ‘nineties’. These days entrepreneurs are asking for help, from outsourcing their HR to outsourcing their accounting, and now marketing and sales.

There’s no shame in standing on the shoulders of giants. Focus on what you’re good at and let the experts support you in growing your business.

Good luck!

Dylan Kohlstädt

Founder and CEO of Shift ONE

Innovation & Businness










Dylan Kohlstädt’s blog: Entrepreneur’s Disease

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