Reinvention is the key to successful entrepreneurship. Great entrepreneurs invest countless hours reinventing, reimagining and disrupting products and services of all kinds. What I’ve found in the research for my new book, “Reach,” is that a key blind spot for many entrepreneurs has to do with perhaps the most important reinvention necessary to make their business successful: reinventing themselves.
For example, an owner of a software company recently confided in me about how anxious he felt making sales to customers. He loved developing the product, and he also enjoyed speaking about the product to potential clients, because he truly believed in it. However, when it came time to make the “ask,” he’d freeze.
Another entrepreneur told me how incredibly stressful it is for her to pitch her ideas in front of would-be investors. She described it like “Shark Tank,” but instead of watching it vicariously on TV, you’re right there under the lights, in the action. For this entrepreneur, who was shy, introverted, and modest by nature, it was simply terrifying.
Speaking of terrifying, another entrepreneur recently told me about how difficult it is for him to deliver bad news – in performance evaluations, for sure, but also when having to lay people off from his firm.
The point is that few entrepreneurs, especially first time entrepreneurs, are ready for what comes at them from a people perspective when building a business. In order to succeed, they need to be able to step outside of their comfort zones and reinvent themselves – finding the courage to do things they never thought they’d have to do, or that they’d be capable of doing.
So how can entrepreneurs get out of this conundrum and learn to reinvent themselves while at the same time reinventing their business?
The first step is two-fold: recognizing that reinventing yourself is just as important a task as reinventing your business. Then, once you’ve convinced yourself of the imperative, doing an inventory of your challenges. No one likes to admit weaknesses, but just as you look for the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) in a business deal, use that same rubric on yourself. Where are your blind spots? What do you struggle with? Be honest.
The second step is to assess your own personal motivation. You’ve done your personal SWOT analysis and find that you struggle with sales, or networking or at delivering bad news. The next step is making sure that this is something you actually care about improving. What’s in it for you to get better at this? Will it help your company grow and thrive? Probably. Will it help you become a more effective businessperson? Will it help you achieve your goals and ambitions? Definitely. Embracing your internal motivation is an essential step for making anything happen, especially personal transformation.
Finally, the last step is to beta test your newly reinvented self. Try out the new behavior. Look at how others do it, and ask friends for help. Maybe even enlist the help of a coach. If beta test number one doesn’t work, try again. Tinker with the behavior, or try it in a different setting. Remind yourself of your motivation to go out there and do it, and just like you’d beta test and improve a product, do the same with this new version of yourself.
In the end, personal reinvention isn’t easy, but it is essential. Don’t let the most critical task of an entrepreneurial career fall by the wayside. Step outside of your comfort zone, embrace change, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals.
“Reach” is available now wherever fine books are sold and at StartupNation.com.
Originally published Feb. 20, 2017.