Americans are raised with the belief that they can start their own company, work hard and success is assured. This is the first of two articles on entrepreneurship, next week I’ll be discussing what I see women do that is effective and different from the way that men act.

In my career as a divorce lawyer I’ve represented many a male entrepreneur who feels entitled. Men in particular are acculturated to believe that they can “go it alone” and build their dream company. Sadly, that is generally not the case.

There are three cardinal rules that anyone who wants to start their own company needs to know: 1) The best entrepreneurs take stock of their own skills and deficits 2) Hire help slowly and fire quickly, and lastly 3) Find creative solutions to their time management problem – every one has one – because burnout will cost you more in the long run. Having the desire to be your own boss, does not mean that you have the skills necessary to be an entrepreneur. The good news is they can be learned, if you are willing to put in the effort.

I’ve helped dozens of people over the past 25 years who wanted to “hang out their shingle” and leave the corporate world behind. Thankfully many of them are still in business today, some sold their companies and others failed to listen to seasoned advice and paid the price by losing their companies.

Being a man in America we are fed a steady diet of expectations and “rules” which we are supposed to live by, but if you want to strike out on your own, you need to take a hard look at yourself. The successful entrepreneur has dug deep to determine what they are good at, and more importantly what they are bad at. It’s those deficits that we as men tend to minimize, hide, feel shame around and ignore. That’s a mistake, because those are the things that will come back to bite you when you’ve not outsourced, or delegated them to someone who is better equipped to handle them.

There is one company in Santa Monica that I’ve been counseling for the past 4 years. The owner is brilliant in the kitchen, but because they refuse to put their recipes down in a written form, they’re spending way too much time retraining staff every time someone leaves. I’ve explained the value in having a writing book of procedures, sales training, grilling, baking and food prep – all to no avail. That lesson of “go it alone” just wont be unlearned.

Men are not supposed to admit weakness, but the only way to win the war is to recognize strengths and weaknesses and shore up the easily attacked places.  I’ve used an inventory process for wannabe entrepreneurs for years and it has a way of surfacing the places where the problems are most likely to crop up for people. I’ve used this with partners as well as individuals, because often partnerships are formed with two people who are too alike. This can create a future problem if there’s a critical area that neither partner is strong in. For example, if two engineers decide to start a company, if neither of them is good at sales, they may have a great product, but without sales, it won’t go anywhere.

My partner and I are often questioned on how we make a partnership work for over 20 years. After all, we’re both divorce lawyers, so you’d think there’d be lots of conflict, but the truth is we complement each other in our skills. I’m the outgoing one who will walk into a roomful of people, chat up three people and find out who needs help with their child custody or divorce case, and I’ll leave with a client. My partner hates those events. He’d rather make sure the rent is paid and the phones are working. Our differences are what make us a good team.

Hiring well is another skill set that most men tend to need some education on. Unless you’ve been a leader on a team before, it’s a common practice to hire people you like, over ones that are less likable, but better equipped for the job.  This is a totally normal human thing to do, but a bad business practice, after all, we’re leaving the corporate world to get away from the people we didn’t like.

Being the boss means putting in longer hours than the staff. The responsibility of being a CEO/Founder is immense. Oftentimes men will let it take over their lives to the exclusion of other things like their health, family and friends. The problem they run into is that overworking leads to burnout, burnout leads to mistakes, mistakes can cost a company a prized contract, or a reputation. Every CEO/Founder needs to manage their time in an efficient way and this is when delegating and outsourcing becomes crucial.

Anything that can be put onto an outside source or delegated should be dispatched as quickly as possible. Marketing, graphic design, Information Technology, Sales Support all of these require focused attention and an overworked, sleep deprived CEO/Founder is likely to make mistakes.

The skills necessary to be a good entrepreneur are completely learnable, and the tools needed to be a success as an entrepreneur are available – the biggest obstacle that most men have to their own success is getting their old programming out of the way, and setting aside their egos that tell them they have to do everything themselves. The self-reliant man may have been a good idol in the 1800’s, possibly the early 1900’s but by 1950 was definitely due to be replaced, and certainly in the 2010’s we need to overhaul what a man needs to know, be and do, as an entrepreneur.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist.  He welcomes your questions and comments.  He can be reached at or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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