Obvious? Maybe. For me though, it wasn’t clear until I’d screwed it up a few times: you have to take responsibility for everything that happens at your business.
At times in the past, I’ve been in situations where our company was stumbling, and I *did not* do everything I could to bring it back on course. There were parts of the company that another person was running, or a product for which someone else was responsible. It was easy to sit back after they said "this is my part of the business, you mind your own part." The thought that goes through your head is "ok, I’ve done what I can. If this fails, it’s not my fault."
But it was my fault. I did not put everything on the line to affect the changes that I wanted to see made. I didn’t accept responsibility. Was I willing to sacrifice my role at the company? My job? A friendship?
The other day, I had just such a situation at Charisma Sciences. My business partner is working on a product that is several months late and for which we were accepting pre-orders. I finally emailed him and told him that I’d lost faith in his ability to deliver this product. If he couldn’t get me something within a week, it was going to severely jeopardize my committment to working with him. This wasn’t a personal attack or a gambit, and he is mature enough to know that. It was business, plain and simple. So, he busted his butt to get the product done, and we now (finally) have over 100 happy pre-order customers, as well as the cornerstone product of our business.
I faced an internal struggle before confronting him on this. I was concerned about our business relationship and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. But I knew that if I didn’t push him, I wasn’t doing everything I could. I wasn’t taking responsibility, and it was to the detriment of my partner, myself, and our employees.
As the story illustrates, this issue becomes especially salient when you have a partner and the two of you split responsibilities. Its also easy to overlook this stuff when you’re sitting on a pile of venture cash, and not working to make next month’s mortgage payment.
Whatever the case, it feels good to accept the true and complete responsibility that comes with running a business. Your attitude towards everything shifts, and it endows you with a purpose that is one of the great joys of entrepreneurship.