Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lie Like an Entrepreneur

I love entrepreneurs. They are some of the most accomplished, most positive and community focused people I have ever met.
But they have one bad habit: They lie a lot.

“Yes, of course we have a business plan.”
“We never looked for any outside financing.”
“We’ve got that problem solved.”
“I think our biggest challenge now is meeting demand.”

I remember telling one of our writers at PROFIT a few years ago that he should enjoy interviewing entrepreneurs. He should do his best to pull revenue figures out of them, he should dig for colorful anecdotes, but he should never forget that the entrepreneur may be lying.

They lie to make their business seem more successful than it is. They lie about the problems they’ve faced, they lie about past accomplishments, and they lie about their future objectives (“Nope, I don’t see myself selling this business ever. I’ll be here till they throw me out”).

The funny thing is, I think many of these entrepreneurs don't mean to lie. Many of them believe what they are saying is true. While a statement may technically be a lie today, that doesn't mean it isn't true in their heads. Some of what they say may become true six months from now.

I believe many entrepreneurs live several months in the future – it’s a key part of how they make their visions come true. So some of them may truly believe the stories they tell are already true.

I discussed this issue last week with a banker over lunch, and she agreed with both parts of my theory: Yes, entrepreneurs lie, and no, they don't really think of it as lying. She put into words the part that I was having trouble with.

“They lie to themselves,” she said.

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