Why You're Not As Important As The Fall Of The Berlin Wall
Netpreneurs Exchange Cautionary Tales Of Ego And
(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
netpreneursincluding milestone achievements from MapSys,
Travel Network, Smip Interactive and
Biddington'sthe 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
"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 Microsofts Bill
Gates and Oracles 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
- 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
- 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
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
dogon a good day."