A Fight With My Business Partner Exposed Her Major Flaw — And It Has Nothing to Do With Credentials | by Rachel Greenberg | Jan, 2022

If you ask me whether I think entrepreneurs should be jacks of all trades or masters of just one, my answer is easy: Jacks all the way.

One of my former partners, however, disagreed with my stance. In fact, she didn’t just disagree; she felt that her box of expertise was finite and defined. Deviating from that felt uncomfortable, annoying, and inefficient. She was a subject matter expert, . Why should she waste time outside of her jurisdiction of expertise?

She said this to me while I spent hours wading through technical tedium and unexpected fire drills that were all unequivocally outside of my “subject matter expertise”. But that’s the job of an entrepreneur: All hands on deck, egos thrust into the treacherous ocean.

That moment — and the resistance with which she approached an unfamiliar, seemingly “irrelevant” task — marked the fatal flaw in our short-lived partnership: She clung to her predefined boxes, while I believe entrepreneurship requires breaking out of them — again and again and again.

So many people ask me which part of entrepreneurship is the most important. Many more guess. They either guess something concrete and technical, like financial acumen, or something much broader and softer, like leadership. They’re both wrong.

The most important part of entrepreneurship isn’t a hard skill or a soft skill; it’s unwavering, enthusiastic, fearless flexibility. That, coupled with resourcefulness, can address 95% of your entrepreneurial hurdles.

Flexibility means titles don’t matter. “Subject matter expertise” is nice, but getting your hands dirty at a moment’s notice to solve an unforeseen near-fatal obstacle is nicer. Further, that type of spontaneous, ego-banishing, go-with-the-punches attitude is the one transferrable skill that bolsters an entrepreneur’s competence and confidence among a myriad of ventures and industries.

Whether your business is digital or physical, B2B or B2C, service or product, I can guarantee you will be confronted with unexpected daggers hurling your way. Declaring that you “only” tackle certain obstacles — or those that fall under some job description or managerial title — is the number one way to render yourself minimally valuable. In other words, the “only this” employee is the one type of partner for which no scrappy, ambitious, success-driven entrepreneur has time.

Most entrepreneurs — even successful ones — have succumbed to the capital-driven idea that money can buy almost everything. Why do you think startups shell out 6+ figures and equity to early and key hires? Simple: That’s the price to get them to care. The more money or equity these employees or partners have — or stand to make — the more they care and the better of a job they’ll do.

Not exactly. I hate to break it to you, but sometimes, you simply can’t pay people enough to care. In fact, I’d venture to argue you can never pay them enough to care as much as you — and that’s fine. The problem occurs when entrepreneurs conflate employees with partners, expecting an unreasonable level of blood, sweat, and tears that simply can’t be bought.

My ex-partner wasn’t a horrible person or even a bad, useless colleague. She was just a subject matter expert with an employee mindset in a partner’s role.


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