Tom Gardners No. 3 Tip for Entrepreneurs: Know That You Are Your Greatest Asset, and Biggest Obstacle

November was Entrepreneurship Month on theRule Breaker Investingpodcast, and in this segment, Motley Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner discuss some of their best advice for anyone else who wants to start a business, be their own boss, and create a lasting enterprise.

Tip No. 3 requires a bit of self-reflection. You may be at the heart of the business, but if you feel like that means you have to do everything -- just to prove you can -- you're setting yourself up for headaches.

A transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Nov. 9, 2016.

David Gardner:Tom, Tip No. 3.

Tom Gardner:Well, since we're speaking to entrepreneurs, you are your organization's greatest asset and greatest obstacle to success.


Tom:And the reason I emphasize that is that, if, as an entrepreneur, you're not on a journey to self-awareness -- to recognizing, "Hm, I never show up to meetings on time. Maybe I shouldn't be the person running meetings." Or, "I don't really have a lot of creative ideas," which is unusual for entrepreneurs, but there are entrepreneurs that are incredible operators. They just need people around them to generate the ideas.

So, I think anyone can be an entrepreneur, but the odds of your success of your organization rely increasingly on your ability to see your narrowly unique value to the organization. Because as you expand and scale -- David and I have talked about this in the past. It's a David G. principle as well as a John Mackey [principle] (theWhole FoodsCEO is on our board). What do you love to do, what does your company need you to do, and what can no one else do? And if you find those things ...

And that's difficult. You may love it. You may be great at it, and your company may need it, but somebody may do it as well as you, and you need to hand it to them and move on to the next thing. That requires a lot of self-awareness and a willingness to sacrifice, sometimes, the things that you love in order to give opportunities to others and move yourself to scale your business.

So, you are your organization's greatest asset, because you have the passion to have created it, and you understand the DNA of that organization, but you're also the greatest obstacle, because you may feel like you have to prove to people you're capable of doing everything, and that's just not possible.

David:It makes so much sense. Tom, if I'm just my own man or woman, as an entrepreneur, I don't have a company. I don't have somebody to help me toward self-awareness.

Tom:A sole proprietor.

David:Yes, if I'm a sole proprietor, how do I figure out what I'm missing?

Tom:There's a great Drucker essay that I've never been able to find since reading it about 15 years ago.

David:Are you sure he wrote it?

Tom:I'm not sure. I may have written it. But I'm pretty sure I didn't, and it did change my life. So, the second time my life has been changed on this podcast.


Tom:This very memory. And Drucker basically said, "Write down three things you love to do and three things you're good at, and three things you hate to do, and three things you fail at. Look at that list. Take the things you love to do and are good at, and spend all of your time, as much as you can there, and pay or barter with other people to do the things that you don't enjoy doing and aren't good at."

So, if you're a sole proprietor out there, I think what you want to do is, you want to see your strengths and your capabilities, and then you want to find a way to either use some capital you have or barter with somebody. Why not? Like, "Hey, listen, if you would do me a favor and manage my email database, then I will help you with your whole marketing plan."

I mean, those things don't naturally wrap up, let's say, with your circle of friends, depending on who you're hanging with, but if you joined a local group of entrepreneurs, or you found ways to connect through a university with other people that were starting businesses, I think that you really want to anchor on your full capabilities and put them at use, and get other people to help you where you're not good.

David:Such a good point. Even software, these days, might [do] that for you. I mean, I think for a lot of people who start their own business, maybe the accounting is not what they're great at, or not what they're interested in, but things like Quicken. Or there are other ways within the cloud and tools that, maybe, can help you if you can't afford to hire somebody else to do your accounting for you.

Tom:You just need to flag it. At some point along the way, you can't afford to do it or you can't find someone to barter. But just the awareness of, "You know what? This is really hard for me, and I'm not enjoying this."

David:As soon as I have some extra money, I am going to hire somebody to do that.

Tom:That's a motivator.

David:That's hard for a lot of people, isn't it? Especially if you're a sole proprietor, because you're used to doing it all. You're needing to juggle everything, and maybe you even gain some ability to do so, but at a certain point, maybe the thing that you've gotten quite good at is what you need to give away. Tom, you mentioned John Mackey earlier.

Tom:Well, I think John, who laid out those three principles: what you're good at, what your company needs, and what no one else can do ...

David:Say it again. What you're good at ...

Tom:And what your company needs from you, and what no one else can do in your organization. John told me that he was seated in a meeting where they were talking about new locations for the next Whole Foods, two or three stores, and he realized in that meeting that somebody was speaking up in a way that demonstrated they had every bit as much knowledge and insight, and possibly some very unique insights that John didn't have.

John said, "I walked out of that meeting, and even though it was one of my favorite things to do -- to pick where the next Whole Foods is. Like I love looking at the numbers and strategizing, and seeing demographics, and how large should the store be, and what's the realtor deal that we're getting for this, the leasing. And I just looked at that person and realized, 'You can do it. You do it, and I will now find my next challenge out there."'

So, it's very easy to get anchored in what we love and the company needs from us, and to blind yourself from the fact that there's somebody else there who's every bit as capable

John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. David Gardner owns shares of Whole Foods Market. Tom Gardner owns shares of Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Whole Foods Market. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.