Obviously, a hallmark of communicating is meeting people where they are and relating to them from their perspective. Entrepreneurs usually have personality types like everyone else. There are certain traits that they have in common and if you identify these traits, you can work and communicate with them more effectively.
1) Think like a customer. Entrepreneurs get their salaries from customers. In a way, they see themselves as an employee of the customer, and their customers as their employers. Therefore, they view you as a vendor, in some ways, rather than an employee. And they view themselves as customers of you as well. So they can, and probably should, get very frustrated if you’re not doing your job. They figure that you shouldn’t be paid if you’re not doing your job, because that’s the relationship they have with their own customers.
To put it bluntly, they figure that if they’re paying you, you should do your job and do it happily, since you don’t often hear good entrepreneurs complaining about their customers, or not happily providing their services. On the other hand, some employees seem to think they are entitled to a job. Good entrepreneurs never feel entitled to revenue or to a customer relationship. This means they serve customers better than those entrepreneurs who hold an entitled view.
2) Think like an owner. Entrepreneurs are charged with running a company, getting a return to investors and keeping a company safe and in business. Actually, this is the make up of their entire job. So good entrepreneurs will delegate work appropriately but always accept 100 percent responsibility for a task being done, an area being run the right way, or a company being run the right way. Good entrepreneurs don’t pass the buck.
Actually, good employees don’t pass the buck either. So if you have a job to do, and you’re working with an entrepreneur, they’re going to expect you to do the job all the way and think of the implications rather than to rotely complete the task at hand and do what you are told. Having been both an employer and an employee, I am hard-pressed to think of a time adopting this attitude would ever hurt rather than help. If you are a waitress in a restaurant and are serving tables 1-20, and table 20 is re-assigned to another waiter, be sure to follow up and make sure that table 20 is served/waited on. Don’t just delegate the table away and blame someone else for not serving table 20.
3) Take things personally. It would be hard to grasp this if you haven’t started a business. But good entrepreneurs do not differentiate between themselves and their businesses. The businesses are, in some ways, a reflection of the entrepreneur. I’ve noticed that most employees don’t fully grasp that, which is understandable. If something about a business is not right, a good entrepreneur is going to take it personally. And you might need to do the same thing, in order to effectively communicate and work with an entrepreneur. This is why most entrepreneurs are tough people- the business is their art form and a reflection of who they are.
4) Recognize that entrepreneurs are fighting with real bullets, not rubber bullets. The practical matter is that their welfare and their families’ welfare is tied directly to their business. This is another reason that entrepreneurs are intense people. I’m not sure how anyone would be able to run a good business without a certain level of intensity. This point may be less prescriptive, except to give you some perspective about where they’re coming from.
If you’re going to work with entrepreneurs, understanding these traits that are common to many of them might help you understand their perspective and work with them effectively.