In my entrepreneurial career, an undeniable truth has emerged: the allure of a challenge often intertwines with the complexities of ego—not just my clients’ but my own, it turns out I am in fact human. I’ve observed a recurring pattern where my desire to fix struggling businesses is often shadowed by an underlying force—the business owners’ personalities, many of whom exhibit narcissistic traits.

My engagements often began with a magnetic pull towards businesses that seemed desperately in need of rescue. There was a thrill in the challenge, a sense of being the only one capable of turning the tide. However, this thrill often masked a critical misjudgment: attributing business failures solely to operational or strategic flaws, rather than acknowledging the more profound influence of the business owner’s personality.

The ego, as I’ve come to understand, plays a dual role here. It’s not just the narcissistic tendencies of the business owners that define the trajectory of their businesses; it’s also my own ego that convinced me that I could be the sole architect of change. This dual play of ego often resulted in a cycle where efforts were met with resistance, not from the business model, but from the people at the helm.

As an experiment, I’ve been focused on engaging with projects where the primary issue lay in execution—areas where strategic and operational changes could directly influence outcomes, independent of the owner’s personality. This has been a gear shift from the distraction of ‘fixing’ people to focusing squarely on fixing processes and strategies.

I’ve said ‘no’ a lot lately. My mothers health scares in more recent months have helped me have firmer boundaries.

Selecting projects where the problem was clearly defined and operational, not only have the success rate of my interventions improve, but the process itself has gotten back to being more rewarding. Engagements are no longer draining battles against ego but a collaborative effort aimed at tangible improvements.

It’s a reminder that while we may be tempted to engage with the drama of a sinking ship, sometimes the best opportunities lie in calmer waters, where our efforts can steer clear of the rocks of resistance and truly make a difference.

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