Theologically speaking, a mortal or deadly sin is believed to destroy the life of grace and charity within a person and thus creates the threat of eternal damnation. That all sounds pretty heavy to me. But when I started to think about how reliant a business is on people, it made sense that the 7 deadly sins could reflect our worst entrepreneurial mistakes. What do you think?
1. Lust – Constantly chasing new ideas.
Some say pride is the deadliest of all sins, but in my experience, idea lust is the most detrimental trait of entrepreneurs. The ability to dream big and envision bold and inspiring ideas is a true gift. But it’s completely useless if you lack the focus and resourcefulness to implement anything. Practice the heavenly virtue of work chastity and teach yourself the ability to refrain from being distracted and tempted by new shiny things.
If you lead many people or departments, don’t fool yourself into believing idea lust is a requirement of your job. Chances are, you’re spinning your staff in circles and never allowing them to complete anything. Take a good hard look at how many projects your staff finished last year. Is it as high as you expected or did you have them constantly switching between priority projects? Are most projects sitting on the backburner until you bring them into focus again?
2. Gluttony – Adding overhead & expanding too quickly.
When times are good, it’s tempting to simply run with it and add overhead, higher credit limits and blindly accept all customers, regardless of our capacity to deliver. While we all hope that rapid growth will continue indefinitely, it rarely does.
Before expanding your cost base in line with (or greater than) your increase in revenue, take a look at what’s driving sales and determine if the growth is sustainable or cyclical. If it’s sustainable growth, take planned strategic steps to expand the company’s infrastructure. If it’s cyclical, design a nimble delivery system that scales quickly with demand. A prudent, analytical approach to operational expansion will mean profitability is likely to increase also, rather than just revenue.
3. Greed – Focusing solely on generating revenue & pocketing cash.
Yes, you’re in business to make money, but there’s more to building a sustainable company than just bringing in sales. As your business grows, invest in designing and implementing long-term scalable systems and sound infrastructure. Reward your people and be mindful of paying your suppliers on time, you never know when you may need a little goodwill to get you through a rough patch. And make paying your taxes a priority! No one likes to pay the taxman, but paying him interest and penalties is even worse. Also, if you ever need credit, the bank will check if your taxes are in arrears, so it’s better to be proactive and stay on top of it.
4. Sloth – Failure to channel one’s talents appropriately.
The Internet has made it relatively easy for millions of people to become entrepreneurs with little to no start up costs. But, in my opinion, there’s too many people looking for the easy path to success, who aren’t willing to work for it. If you want to build a company, there are a million things to do and no one to motivate you. There’s no time to rest on your laurels or wait for someone to hold your hand. You must work diligently with an unwavering belief in yourself and your mission. You must channel all of your talents and resourcefulness to make big things happen.
5. Wrath – Letting emotions blind your judgment.
From an emotional standpoint, owning a business is akin to riding a rollercoaster. You never know if today will bring great news or a huge blow. But you should never let emotions guide your business decisions. If a project is failing and you’ve done everything you can to make it work, cut your losses and move on. If you hang in there until the bitter end, you’ll erode all your resources and make it much harder on yourself to turn things around. Deciding to shut down a project that isn’t working does not equal failure. It’s the most bold, brave and smart move you can make. Congratulate yourself, and then move on to bigger things.
6. Envy – Failing to differentiate and create a unique market position.
In Dante's Purgatory, the punishment for the envious is to have their eyes sewn shut with wire. I’d say that’s a bit harsh, but any entrepreneur who’s following their competitor’s moves, rather than carving out a differentiated market position, will certainly be punished in some way. Challenge yourself and your staff to constantly engage in innovative thinking. This is simply bringing together analytical and emotional intelligence to know and feel where your customer’s needs are not being met. Then solving those needs by being resourceful and open to fresh ideas.
7. Pride – Believing you are the only one who can do an amazing job.
When there are a million things to do and you don’t have time to fix mistakes, or when the result of a mistake is the loss of revenue you literally cannot afford to lose, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you are the only one that can do a job well. But if that were true, no business would ever grow beyond the size of a “Mom & Pop” shop. The harsh reality is that you have not taken the time to build scalable systems and processes and train your staff properly.
Remember, humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. There are people out there that can manage aspects of your business as well as you do. In some areas, they may even be better at it than you, if given half a chance to touch the reins.
I know you have your own great business advice on this topic and I’d love to hear it. Tell me in the comments below how you’ve witnessed or experienced the 7 deadly business sins.