Steve Jobs once said, “Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice; and most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” This is great advice for someone starting a business; but terrible, terrible advice for a business owner.

Founders have to be tenacious; they have to block their ears to naysayers; they have to drive their ideas forward using charisma and connections. They have to take charge and believe in the inner voice.

Once a business is established, however, owners need to tune back in to the “noise” of disparate opinions. They have to find people to buy into the vision of the business, bring new expertise to the team, and rely on their own intuition to make decisions. Many founders have trouble stepping back and bringing these people aboard.

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Getting caught in the Founder’s Cap means believing that you and you alone can make decisions to lead your company forward. This approach will inhibit your efforts to grow.

Typical thinking of a business owner caught in the Founder’s Cap includes:

  • I can’t find anyone smarter than me, or as smart as me, to work in my business.
  • No one understands this stuff as well as I do.
  • I am the one shining light of brilliance.
  • I don’t want to spend money on recruiting or business development. I can do it myself.
  • My clients want to speak to me.
  • This business revolves around my expertise. This is my intellectual property, and I am not giving it up.
  • I’m the only one who really knows the business, so I have to manage every detail.
  • My vote is really the only one that counts.

Employees at a business caught in the Founder’s Cap, meanwhile, won’t speak up or disagree with their boss. Yes-men quickly rise as favorites, and a stagnant, static culture lacking innovation and creativity, develops. The company and the owner are one and the same: there is no separation, no innovation, no dissention – and no growth.

No founder means to sabotage the businesses they’ve worked so hard to build; but it can take time for many to understand that they need to step back out of the way in order to realize success. Once they do, they have the chance to remove the cap on their growth, and reignite business growth. Founders work hard to build their businesses – and have to work even harder to step away from it.