When Ego Gets in the Way

Michael Gallagher, .

businessman pulling off shirtA little ego is necessary in the business world.  After all, people with the entrepreneurial spirit aren’t renowned for great humility or meekness. They are known for the drive to take an idea and deliver a fascinating product or innovative service.  They are known for their fierce dedication and for the long hours they put in. Ego is a sense of self, of identity, which is crucial in our incredibly competitive business world. Ego is necessary – but a little goes a long way!

How does ego get in the way of success?  Let’s talk cars for a minute.  In 2008, America’s Big Three car manufacturers, Ford, Chrysler, and GM, saw incredible, and catastrophic, declines in sales. In danger of failing, and crippling an already wounded economy, they knew that they needed to adapt to the times. Fast-forward three years, and you have a completely different dynamic. With smaller, more fuel-efficient models, like the Focus, Malibu, and Cobalt, the Big Three have started a comeback and have reignited optimism in the car industry.

Closer to home, we can see how this played out for one former manufacturing industry worker, Rahumathulla Marikkar.  He lost his job with Interface, Inc., the world’s largest modular carpet manufacturer.  Marikkar could have queued up for unemployment benefits, but he chose to jettison his model of how things are “supposed” to work and take a chance.  He launched his own business, Belletile, Inc., which manufactures carpet tile.  If he had run his business like other manufacturing companies, though, he would have succumbed to intense overseas competition quickly.

Instead of following the traditional path, Marikkar found himself a new niche, offering high-value products that low-cost overseas competitors cannot make. His products require extensive engineering to meet North American standards for high-traffic carpeting, and this know-how hasn’t extended to Asian competitors yet.

The lesson? They knew, “but we’ve always done it this way,” wasn’t going to work. They knew that clinging to a dead business model and outdated products wasn’t going to spell success and their once golden corporations would end up in the scrapheap unless they figured out a new way to do business.

Ego sometimes gets in the way because business owners fear that the necessity for change means they are not doing their job, that they are wrong, incompetent, or stupid. Nothing could be further from the truth, adapting to change is crucial and can be difficult.  But it is also how innovative companies weather storms and continue to find success.

There is a difference between smart people and wise people.  Smart people will try to fix problems on their own. Wise people let go of the ego and seek assistance for unbiased, disciplined leadership support and business operations improvements. They know being smart is just the start; it is often not enough to catapult a company out of trouble.  They know when change presents itself, they need to change themselves in order to succeed.  How do you do this without changing your core values or mission?  It is possible – when you understand how ego can get in the way, and seek out the help you need.

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Michael Gallagher

Mike Gallagher, President of Michael Gallagher Advisory, has spent the past 20 years helping small business owners and managers develop and implement strategic business plans, achieve sustainable, targeted growth and solve the problems that keep them up at night.