Build Your Business on Your Strengths, Hire Your Team to Cover Your Weaknesses

If you dream of quitting your job and becoming your own boss, you’re not alone – 48 percent of Americans want to start their own business. But are you cut out for the entrepreneurial path? There’s an ongoing debate about whether entrepreneurs are born or made. Is there such a thing as entrepreneurial DNA?

Certain factors give you a better shot. Risk tolerance is a must but, by-and-large, there’s not just one type of person who can be a successful entrepreneur. In fact, business success has very little to do with whether you’re a people person or an introvert, detail-oriented or big-picture, quick-thinking or contemplative. I’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years and seen people at each of these extremes achieve great success in their own ventures.

The key is knowing your strengths. It’s not about what type of person you are, it is about knowing what type of person you are. The one essential characteristic that makes a successful entrepreneur is a capacity for introspection. The entrepreneur who succeeds is the one who truly knows his or her own strengths, and builds a business around them.

Think about Disney, Ford, Apple, Google, Amazon, Virgin–some of the most successful businesses in history. Most people assume that the founders were just born with exceptional talent. It’s true that each of them had a particular area of genius but that’s not why they succeeded. They succeeded because they knew where they excelled and organized their management structure accordingly. Each one of them designed his company in a way that allowed him to spend almost all of his time working on what he loved to do. Success followed.

I asked my friend and business coach Lex Sisney (cofounder of and author of Organizational Physics) to weigh in on the question of what makes a successful entrepreneur.

“I think a business can reach a modicum of success with any entrepreneur who’s smart, hard-working and determined,” he says. “But only an entrepreneur who fuses his or her unique talents with a driving sense of purpose can achieve a transcendent level of success, and have a heck of a lot of fun doing it.”

Every one of us is a genius at something. Every one of us is a potential entrepreneur. The key is to understand where your greatest talent lies, and figure out how to build a business around it.

Know your weaknesses, too. But what if there are certain areas in which you’re maybe not-so-much of a genius? Can you still be an entrepreneur if, say, you never passed calculus in high school?

Even the most successful entrepreneurs I know have their weaknesses. Some people excel at starting projects but are terrible at finishing them. Others shine in customer development but can’t wrap their head around operations. The good news is you don’t need to be a genius at everything to be an entrepreneur.

You do need to be aware of, and open about, your weaknesses. When you know where you’ll need support, you can build your team accordingly. Don’t hire people who are just like you. Instead, bring in people who complement your skills by excelling where you struggle. If you fail to do this, you’ll end up spending a lot of your time working in your weak areas, experiencing a ton of stress in day-to-day operations as a result.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. As your business grows, it’s not long before you get drawn into fighting fires outside of your specialty. If you don’t trust your team, either because you didn’t hire the right types of people to support you or because you haven’t learned how to get out of the way, it causes everyone stress. The business won’t perform up to potential.

Lex told me a story about how he almost ruined his own business (which went on to become the largest affiliate marketing company in the world) by failing to recognize his weaknesses early on:

“A business I started was growing like gangbusters,” he said. “As a result, we were having a lot of problems getting our internal systems to keep pace with our sales. Rather than sticking to what I was good at–, innovation and market evangelism, I wrongly decided that I needed to become more of an ‘operator.’ I stopped spending as much time out in the market with customers, and I started spending more time working inside the business trying to right the ship.”

As he became more and more frustrated trying to fix operations, he started to lose confidence in his own capabilities. Problems with the system persisted and, even worse, sales started slipping. Finally, he brought in a coach who helped him delegate so that he could get back to working from his strengths.

“My energy level and confidence quickly came back and so did our sales,” he said. “Once I stopped meddling, the inside team rose to the challenge and made dramatic system improvements as well. That business went on to become the largest of its kind in the world. And to think I almost wrecked it by trying to work from my weaknesses rather than my strengths!”

Identifying your strengths and weaknesses. We all have biases that make an accurate self-assessment almost impossible. I’m introspective by nature but even I didn’t fully understand my strengths and weaknesses at the start. Luckily, there are lots of great tools out there for introspection junkies like me!

Here are my favorite tools (I’ve used all five) for better understanding your strengths and weaknesses:

1. StrengthsFinder. The StrengthsFinder assessment first showed up in the 2001 best-selling book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Dr. Donald Clifton. The self-assessment (now available online independent of the book) identifies your top five strengths based on your unique combination of talents, knowledge and skills.My top five strengths, per the test, were: activator, woo maximizer, communication and competition.

2. PSIU Management Style Indicator. The PSIU from Lex Sisney of Organizational Physics evaluates three different aspects of your management style: how you are, how you want to be and how others want you to be. Very useful for better understanding not only how you operate but also how other people perceive you in the workplace.

3. DiSC Assessment. The DiSC measures how you respond to your environment and how you influence others. It’s based on the DISC theory of psychologist William Marston, which centers on four personality traits – dominance, inducement, submission and compliance. (Fun fact: Marston also produced the first successful lie detector polygraph and created the comic Wonder Woman.)

4. ARC Leadership Dynamics. ARC starts with a 30-minute phone interview rather than a self-assessment (the makers of this test believe that self-assessments are too biased to be accurate). Following the phone interview, the specialist responds with tailored advice on how to best leverage your strengths in a position of leadership.

5. Predictive Index. The Predictive Index is often used as a hiring tool but it’s also useful as a self-assessment. This test tells you which behaviors you exhibit most strongly in the workplace and gives you a general overview of your management style.

Weakness doesn’t have to be an obstacle to success. Every entrepreneur has many. There are all kinds of people in this world, each with a different set of strengths. So what do you think: Are you an entrepreneur? If you have a deep capacity for introspection, you’re off to a great start.The key is to understand your own personal genius, plan your business around it and bring in people who can cover your blind spots.


Is your CRM not working for you?

By Kate Leggett

CIOs, very often, have quires for CRM, which go something like this: “we implemented a CRM solution from Vendor X, and it doesn’t work. Nobody is using it, and when they are forced to use it, it is slowing them down instead of making their life easier. Are there solutions from Vendor Y or Z that would do a better job for us?”

The answer goes something like this: “CRM solutions are mature. Most vendor solutions are chock full of features and functions – probably more than you would ever need. Your CRM is not supporting your needs, perhaps, because:

1) You don’t have crisp definitions of your processes, the stages within processes, and the exit criteria to move to the next stage (ex. what are your criteria to promote a lead to an opportunity? Are they the same for all business units?)
2) You have implemented your CRM without doing any customisation or configuration. As a result, your organizational processes are not well supported in your CRM.
3) You have not paid attention to your data quality. Users don’t trust the data that they use.
4) You haven’t spent the time to integrate other systems to your CRM, so you cannot empower your customer facing personnel with all the information they need from your CRM. It’s not helping them get their job done easier or faster.
5) You don’t have the right reports available to your end users to allow them to measure their performance.
6) You haven’t focused on usability or the user experience. The UI is probably not role based, or tailored to what your users need, and you haven’t thought though the actual data elements that are important to your users at the various stages of your processes.
Sound familiar?

A Forrester survey, conducted in partnership with CustomerThink, of 650 business professionals and IT leaders who had been involved in a CRM technology project last year it was found that:

1) Nearly half of survey respondents had faced problems grounded in poor or insufficient definition of business requirements, inadequate business process designs, and the need to customise solutions to fit unique organizational requirements.
2) More than two-fifths said that their problems were the result of people issues, such as slow user adoption, inadequate attention paid to change management and training, and difficulties in aligning the organizational culture with new ways of working.
3) Two-fifths had challenges related to their CRM strategy, such as a lack of clearly defined objectives, poor solution deployment practices, and insufficient solution governance practices.

What does this all mean? Choosing CRM solution is an important step. But it is not enough to ensure success with your CRM project. A CIO must pay attention to CRM strategy, processes, and people factors to ensure success. He must take the time to understand how he will use CRM to generate business value, and spend the time to ensure a perfect fit into your organisation. He just can’t shoehorn a vendor solution without configuration, customisation or integration into operations, and think that it is going to work.

The author is VP, Principal Analyst Serving Application Development and Delivery Professional at Forrester. The article was first published on Forrester.


Why consumers feel more empowered about privacy

By Fatemeh Khatibloo

The tide is turning on privacy. Since the earliest days of the World Wide Web, there has been an increasing sense that the Internet would effectively kill privacy – and in the wake of the NSA PRISM program revelations, that sentiment was stronger than ever. Forrester found that attitudes on privacy are evolving: Consumers are beginning to shift from a state of apathy and resignation to caution and empowerment.
A recently published Forrester report says that in the past year, individuals have 1) become much more aware about the ways in which organizations collect, use, and share personal data and 2) have started to change their online behavior in response:

Of course, even now, consumers demonstrate a wide range of attitudes toward an understanding of data privacy: Some individuals tune out technology news, while others struggle to navigate the legalese of the average privacy policy. But this lack of understanding shouldn’t be taken as apathy – as knowledge gaps close, individuals seek out companies that actually work to win their customers’ trust.

This research further emphasizes that the concept of privacy is redefined. CIOs need to provide transparency and choice about data collection and usage practices or risk losing customers.

It’s time to leverage qualitative and quantitative insights to understand customers’ privacy attitudes, adjust practices accordingly, and prioritize privacy and preference on business planning agenda.

Fatemeh Khatibloo is principal analyst serving consumer insights professionals at forrester. This article was first published on Forrester.

How not to tell your customers how much you care about their security

We’ve written several times before about “what not to do” when sending important emails to your customers.

For example, after the recent Heartbleed data leakage revelations, there was widespread fear that most websites you’d visited in the past two year might, just might, have yielded up your password to the cybercriminal underworld or to one or more intelligence services.

In fact, your password very probably wasn’t seen by anybody (except perhaps after the Heartbleed hype hit home and every Tom, Richard and Harriet went a-looking for what they could find in server memory), but “very probably” isn’t really good enough.

As a result, lots of websites understandably asked you to reset your password, and one or two couldn’t resist making it really easy by including quick-and-easy links to their login pages.

So, we asked you as nicely as we knew how, “Please don’t do that.”

We’ve also advised you to steer clear of pleasantries about just how much you value our security, how seriously you take our privacy in theory, and so forth, especially if you are writing to give us bad news about how little you actually did to protect our personal data in practice.

After all, when we share our personal data with you, it’s a privilege for you that we have chosen to do so.

Click to read ‘Phish or legit’…It shouldn’t be a privilege for us that you might treat our data with the respect we already think it deserves.

Sending genuine emails that sail too close to phishing territory represent a double negative:

Phish-looking marketing emails will be rejected by savvy customers, and may tarnish your brand amongst the sort of users who care about security. In our “post-Snowden” world, security evangelists are becoming ever more influential, so you may as well start winning them over now.
Phish-looking marketing emails soften up your less cautious customers, making it more likely that they will click dubious links in future. Far better to leave the dodgy look to the crooks, so that when your users see something suspicious, they can reject it immediately, instead of wondering if it might just be real.
With all of this in mind, we thought we’d share with you an antipodeal example of a real marketing mail that you can use an an example of what not to do.

This sample was sent in by a Australian reader, with the electronic equivalent of an audible sigh:

(What you can’t see in the image above is that when you hover over the URLs in the message, they actually turn into links that redirect via, the server used to deliver the message, with tracking codes added; these links then redirect back to

We probably don’t need to analyse what’s phishy about this message, but we’ll summarise the key points anyway:

Don’t bother with self-praise like “your personal information is our … absolute priority” when all you are really writing to tell us is that you intend to comply with the law.
If you’re going to use links that look like URLs, keep it simple: don’t sneakily redirect those URLs somewhere else
Don’t put links to login pages into email correspondence: leave that sort of behaviour to the crooks, so only crooks ever do it.
That third point is the most important.

If you never, ever put login links in your emails, then any email that contains a login link will stand out immediately to your customers.

They’ll thank you for that in the end.