En`tre`pre`nosis

Illnesses of Today's Entrepreneur

I believe I coined the term Entreprenosis back in 2008. It applies to the various forms of psychological disorders common to business people. Through the years, while conferring with numerous investors, entrepreneurs and even some attorneys, it appears they too have seen the same disorders as I have, and commonly found them in entrepreneurs.

CASE #1: "Founder's Disease"

Founder's Disease is pretty common. Anyone who's started or funded a company knows the immense talent and commitment it requires. Not surprising it calls out to a particular kind of intense individual who can survive that kind of demand. These companies need a ton of talent and luck, and if the founders don't believe in what they're doing, they will certainly fail. On a positive side, I've seen a few of this kind of founder create a billion dollar company, and these are folks who had zero patience for the word 'no'. To survive this kind of personal commitment, they must constantly justify their own situation and their decision-making travails. Sometimes it can go to an extreme, and you hear: "No one knows (but me) what this company needs; Everyone disagrees with me, but they are all wrong."

CASE #2: "Borderline Personality"

One day I heard an attorney describe a client issue stemming from Borderline Personality. Later that week, I heard about an unrelated lawsuit involving a difficult entrepreneur who was ruining the company he had founded. He was stubborn, impossible to reach and completely unpredictable. When I asked the attorney if "Borderline Personality" would be an appropriate label in their lawsuit, it was exactly what they called it. For reference, Wikipedia says "Borderline personality disorder (BPD) (called emotionally unstable personality disorder, emotional intensity disorder, or borderline type... the intial feature of which is a pattern of marked impulsivity and instability affects, interpersonal relationships and self-image..."

CASE #3: "Messiah of the Month"

Sometimes entrepreneurs see their rabid mission as finding the one and only leader who can run their company. They frantically search for the one person who can make their company successful, since they are only a founder, and they are obsessed with finding the right CEO (or President, CFO, VP Sales...). And, they won't quit until they find him/her!

Then when the messiah stumbles, as they always do: "No- that wasn't the right person. How could he have misled me? He doesn't have the talent he promised, he lied on his resume or over-sold his qualifications." Then, the Founder looks for the next new person all over again. "Now, I got it this time, I really found the one person who can save us, he is the one. Finally." Rinse and repeat.

CASE #4: "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Bleep You!"

You're an investor or otherwise contributing to a company's needs, but it starts to get out of hand. The Founder begs "Please give me funds so we can make payroll this month; Please help me pay the rent this month; We have to go meet with our biggest customer, why can't you advance the needed expense money? What? You can't help us again? How can you do that to us? Bleep You!

This is a little personal for me, and I think it's pretty common. As we said, running a new company is very hard, and sometimes entrepreneurs have to beg, borrow or steal to keep it going. It's all about surviving. And, sometimes they find angel investors who can pitch in; again and again, sometimes it gets like a drug habit. When the money stops flowing, some entrepreneurs react badly and see this as you letting them down. They believe you have an endless supply of money. In desperate times, graciousness goes out the window. Sometime impatience for funds comes out as "Bleep You!"

So, those are the first four illnesses, please let me know if you want to hear the rest.

Published on: Jan 22, 2015