6 Negative Realities Entrepreneurs Rarely Talk About

Successful entrepreneurs are often some of the most inspiring people you can meet. They were able to take an idea, shape it into something marketable (and useful), and bring it to life for the world to see. It’s an incredible feat to start your own business in the first place, but to have it be successful is another matter entirely. It takes perseverance, dedication, and probably some element of luck.

While there’s certainly a lot of variation in the personalities of entrepreneurs, they typically share similar traits: passion, vision, optimism, and curiosity, just to name a few. However, sometimes these positive traits can actually be detrimental — they can be a little too optimistic, work so many hours that they miss out on their personal lives, or slow their business down because they’re letting perfectionism take over.

We talked to a bunch of successful entrepreneurs to see what positive (but also negative) traits they possessed and asked how they deal with them. Here’s what they had to say.

They’re Typically Optimistic

Like professional athletes, entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic. It’s difficult to think of optimism as being a “bad” thing, but sometimes our desire to look at what could be can cloud our view of reality.

A photo of a coffee mug that says “HUSTLE” sitting on a desk with a laptop and a tablet.
Hustle is the name of the entrepreneurship game.

Brad Nierenberg, CEO of RedPeg Marketing, (recently named one of Fast Company’s World’s Most Innovative Companies), is a naturally optimistic person. Still, he also acknowledges that it’s this typically “good” personality trait that nearly cost him his company.

“One of my biggest mistakes was being overly optimistic, one year in particular. We had grown almost 100 percent through a single client, and I assumed that growth would only continue the following year. So, we staffed up accordingly, without a contract in hand. That put us in a tremendous financial bind when the business didn’t grow according to my optimistic plans. And it was one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced because we could have lost everything.”

Nierenberg has since learned his lesson. He didn’t let it squash his optimism, but he looks at business decisions differently. “From that experience, I learned to get much more focused on understanding the basics of our numbers. I now know I can be positive and optimistic, but I can’t let optimism drive business decisions.”

Think of this as being cautiously optimistic. Have the mindset that your business will continue to expand and mature, but make big decisions based upon a more neutral stance. We’re not saying you should be negative, per se, but if you’re trying to decide whether or not to invest a substantial amount of money in a new employee, program, or product, make sure you have a steady stream of income to justify it.

They’re Almost All Perfectionists

Perfectionism is a very common trait among entrepreneurs, and it’s difficult to fault them for it. If you put yourself in their shoes, you can see why they’re protective of their company — it’s their baby. They want to nurture it and help it grow. Perfectionism drives them to improve their product, service, and the company overall continually. It’s a major reason they succeed in and of itself. However, it’s also the very reason some companies fail.

For more from our CEO and other entrepreneurs, read on Proto.io.