It’s easy to put ultra successful entrepreneurs on a pedestal. Let’s face it: after they reach the peak, they usually sound brilliant, and as Ben Franklin said after he became rich and famous, “now I sing well too.”
But when you peel back their lofty status and record of home runs you usually see a series of hits, misses, whiffs and foul balls along the way. And that’s not a bad thing. Great entrepreneurs are not afraid to acknowledge they don’t know it all. More powerfully, the ability to act without full information can be a strength when you want to start a business.
Vince Pettinelli, a psychotherapist by training said “If I had to hire me I never would have because I didn’t have the prerequisite business skills.” Yet, he went on to build a $200 million company called PeopleServe. Many of us want to start a business but are in the same boat – we don’t have experience behind us. Here are a few ways you can capitalize on your abilities no matter what level you are at right now:
Ask Questions: Find a really successful company owner and ask them how they did it. Think your question is an imposition? It is not. The truth is, in most cases that successful person is wondering how they can give back without appearing to be boastful. Stephen Covey said “the deepest desire of the human spirit is to be acknowledged.” You are honoring them with your attention, respect and passionate desire to learn.
Hire People Better Than Yourself: This is a truism – every successful founder I’ve ever interviewed said this at some point in our discussion. No one ever said “it was all me, just me.” Here’s a practical example of good hiring in action: Vince Pettinelli had no financial background. As soon as he could afford it, he hired his accountant to come on board the company full time. Eventually the accountant became company president. From the beginning Vince said “Your job is to teach someone who can’t read financials–how to. And that includes me.” That one hire helped him stay within budget and grow the business massively.
Make Mistakes: Even Dick Costolo, founder of Feedburner and now CEO of Twitter didn’t always get it right. He said “I keep starting companies because of the regrets I have about the 50 things I did wrong on the previous one.” And fear of making mistakes should not hold you back. Al Berning, founder of Pemstar puts it perfectly: “People think if you study long enough, you’ll get a clear direction to go ahead. That’s never going to happen. You just have to have enough confidence in yourself to move forward.”
It’s easy to sound naïve, especially when you want to start a business but are a newbie. Instead of trying to act like you know it all, embrace what you don’t know. It’s not a weakness. Treat it as a precious asset and the world will open up for you.
**Robert Jordan is a Forbes.com contributor. View the original posting of this article on Forbes.com.