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Why You're Not As Important As The Fall Of The Berlin Wall
Netpreneurs Exchange Cautionary Tales Of Ego And Greed

(Washington, DC -- June 25, 1998) June's Coffee & DoughNets started with a party and concluded with a warning, as 300 netpreneurs heard real-life stories and advice about how ego and greed can become a successful entrepreneur's two greatest enemies.

Following success stories from the audience of some 300 netpreneurs—including milestone achievements from MapSys, CheckVendor, Green Travel Network, Smip Interactive and Biddington's—the group was treated to a song from rap artist Notorious G-I-N-G, in celebration of the Netpreneur Program's Penny Lewandowski's birthday. Notorious is famous for originating what has become known as the "Beyond the Beltway Sound," a subculture that deftly combines suburban techno dance music with plaid sport coats.

The Netpreneur Program also celebrated two milestones for Coffee & DoughNets. Usually held monthly, for the first time two meetings occurred in the same month, this session following closely on a June 11 session held in Baltimore, MD, the Program's first event in that city.

The festive atmosphere turned more serious as entrepreneurial veterans Mario Morino, chairman of the Morino Institute, and George Gingerelli, co-founder of New Vantage Partners, provided real-life stories about the dangers of ego and greed, and advice for warding them off.

"Great leaders and great entrepreneurs tend to have great egos, but they are able to control them," said Mario. "When they aren't controlled," he added, "firms are disrupted, lives are changed and damaged." Both he and George gave examples of people and companies that saw their fortunes turn toward failure when arrogance interfered with sound business and greed derailed relationships.

"Size does matter when it comes to egos," said George, "and too much self-regard leads to shortsightedness."

Despite the seriousness of the discussion, several examples of executive excess had the audience chuckling in disbelief:

  • the ad campaign which compared the significance of a company's new technology to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • the CEO ensconced in a massive, lavish office because, "my people expect to see me in these surroundings"—the same executive for whom no one could collect enough money from among his employees to purchase him a birthday present.
  • the negotiator who turned down more than he hoped to achieve because he didn't like the fact that the other side seemed to be getting more.

What can be insidious, according to Mario and seconded by George, is that an entrepreneur may not naturally be arrogant or greedy, but his success may seduce him into feeling invulnerable. "You begin to believe your own press releases," said Mario, cautioning that "arrogance gets transmitted like a disease through an organization" and citing companies like Cullinet in the early 1980's and IBM later in that decade.

On the other hand, Mario pointed to Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Oracle’s Larry Ellison as two technology executives with very large egos, but not the destructive arrogance. The distinction? They listen to people inside and outside of the company, and they are almost paranoid about the threat of competition.

"When you're absolutely certain you know what the answer is, you typically don't," Mario said. "If you are not listening, you are as good as dead."

As an entrepreneur, how do you avoid the destructive forces of ego and greed? Mario offered several suggestions:

  • Know your own value set and force yourself to look into the mirror regularly.
  • Surround yourself with people who share your values.
  • Don't believe your headlines or the PR and marketing folks who frequently blow accomplishments out of proportion.
  • Demand that those around you "bring you down to earth."
  • Place enormous importance on criticism from your colleagues, and less on the glowing compliments you hear.
  • Place yourself in situations where you are not the "big kahuna."

The best advice he has to offer? "Have several children and a dog. What a shock to go from a business setting where I say something and folks start moving, to home, where I am in fifth place after my wife, three kids, and a dog—on a good day."



Copyright 1998, Morino Institute. All rights reserved. Edited for length and clarity.  

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