The biggest mistake you can make in business is being in love with your product. Don’t be too stubborn to change or adapt. Love your business, love what you are doing — but know when it is time to go with the punches.
A product and a service are simply a path or avenue, and keep in mind they are not the only available path. It is your impact on people and the legacy that you leave that are the most important.
There are huge benefits to optimism, but being stubborn in entrepreneurship, as a result of being in love with your product and succumbing to the needs of your ego (the need to be right/offended/superior/inferior/separate), can bring about the destruction of multibillion-dollar companies.
As coaching icon John Wooden once said, “You must be interested in finding the best way, not in having your own way.”
There are some benefits of hardheadedness.
Of course, being stubborn has been shown to be an indicator of success. In fact, there was a study done on children between the ages of eight and 12, whose non-cognitive personality traits were investigated to see which is the biggest predictor of success.
Four decades later, the research team sought out those kids to see how they had developed. “Rule-breaking” and “defiance of parental authority” were discovered to be the most effective predictors of profitability and money-making skills among that group of adults.
There was a belief that “rule-breakers” also tend to be more competitive in classroom settings than their peers, which in turn leads to an improvement in grades. The authors also speculated that “rule-breakers” might also be willing to demand more when it comes time to negotiate.
Stubborn and headstrong individuals tend to be more difficult negotiators, with a penchant for arguing strongly for their own position and a distaste for compromise. There is, however, the possibility that rule-breaking and unethical behavior as adults is partly responsible for the increase in their grown-up salaries as well.
Think long-term: Be kind to your future self.
Some of the people I have met that were in love with their product were their own biggest enemy.
Steve Jobs avoided this best, in my opinion, although he still made mistakes. Jobs, as you know, was an entrepreneur who stuck to his principles and in the late 1970s he thought that the Apple II should be a consumer’s electronic device, rather than a piece of computing equipment. His lack of being in love with his product, and eye for innovation, led him to take out some features people said they wanted rather than to do a sub-par job of executing the feature.
He was right, with the Apple II becoming one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputer products. People also used to say that Apple should ditch the Mac and start building fancy Windows PCs instead, but at that time Jobs was too “in love” with the product to sign off on changes, leading to decreased sales. He eventually adjusted.
Then came the iPod. Then came the iPhone. Then came the iPad.
Don’t be too “in love” to listen.
Blockbuster v. Netflix is the best example of being too “in love” to change.
Back in 2000, the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, approached former Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and asked for $50 million in exchange for his company. Antioco, thinking it was a very small and niche business, ended the negotiation process and chose not to buy Netflix, which at the time was a DVD mailing service. Other Blockbuster execs pointed out that Netflix was losing money at the time when trying to justify the decision.
Netflix now has over 100 million streaming subscribers worldwide and is worth billions, while Blockbuster went bankrupt, with the business being valued around $24 million at the time of the sale.
The lesson here is to be open to change. Don’t fall into the traps of your ego by having a need to be right. So many times we find that we are in love with our product instead of our people, with no clear path to revenue. Being open to change, instead of being blinded by love, allows us to accelerate our success.