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Entrepreneurial Jiu-Jitsu: Weakness to Strength

Posted by Seth Elliott On December - 22 - 2009

jiujitsuThe reasons not to take the entrepreneurial plunge are as many as the day is long. “I don’t have the right connections;” “I don’t have access to venture capitalists;” “There’s nothing new – everything’s been thought of already;” “I’m not a technologist.” I’m sure you can come up with five more before finishing the next paragraph.

Interestingly, the lack of resources can actually prove to be a godsend to entrepreneurs with the right mindset. Without cash and other immediate resources, you’re forced to improvise and innovate, using your skills to find clever ways to overcome usual obstacles. This can actually result in a better company than if you simply threw money at the problems encountered in the early stages of formation.

If you find yourself in this position, it’s time for a little entrepreneurial jiu-jitsu – whereby actively turn your perceived weaknesses into strengths.

  • Identify Your Weakness.
  • Of course, first you have to take the steps to identify your vulnerabilities. This can be scary, as you may be one of those people that actively hides any weakness, even from yourself. If this task seems daunting, just remind yourself that you will shortly be transforming these circumstances into engines of success. Write down any component that you think will hamper you in achieving your goals. These can range from physical (illness, disability, age) to mental (education, skill sets) to resources (capital). Determine what they are so you can address them head on.

  • Model.
  • Once you’ve identified your areas of vulnerability, do some research. Find examples of individuals and companies that have succeeded despite (perhaps because of?) the same weakness that plagues you. Think you don’t have enough education? Jim Clark, of Netscape fame, dropped out of college. Too old to start a new business? Colonel Sanders didn’t get Kentucky Fried Chicken rolling until he was past 40. Not enough capital to succeed? Phil Knight started Nike with less than $10,000. Spend a bit of time to find a congruent role model and then do some research to find the success keys for your own circumstances.

  • Find the Flip.
  • Take the list of weaknesses you’ve developed and examine them with a new perspective – how could each one of them be turned into a positive factor? No connections = a fresh face on the scene with new ideas. Too old = a long and varied experience that imparts significant value. No funding = a nimble and innovative firm that finds ways to leverage every resource. But don’t just view these as branding taglines. Once you’ve found the flip side of your weakness, take steps to actualize that in the real world. Don’t simply call yourself nimble and innovative, for example. Instead, realize that it gives you some unique perspectives and opportunities and take advantage of those aspects in growing your business. What you’re doing here is turning your weakness to strength – and then playing to your strength.

  • Imagine the Antonym.
  • Next, apply this tactic in a slightly different direction. Suppose for the moment that your list of weaknesses didn’t exist – in fact assume that your situation was opposite to the extreme. Now go create a scenario in which those changed circumstances could actually imperil your business. You may need to stretch your thought process for this. If your weakness is no capital, you would assume an overabundance of funding. This might lead to complacency, poor hiring decisions, launching products too early, disdain for your first customer base, etc. Again, this is not simply a matter of perspective – embrace the results that you come up with and drive your business practice accordingly.

  • Strap on the Spurs.
  • One final strategy, that you should use as an adjunct to the previous tips, is to face your weaknesses head on and use them as a spur to personal growth. If your weakness is lack of connections, develop strategies to improve your networking skills. Lack education? Build a plan to get certified or take courses at a local college. No capital? Create a specific plan for learning how to raise funds and connect yourself to relevant sources.



Have you tried any of these strategies? Please share your stories about turning your weaknesses to strengths.

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About the Author

I have spent the last 15 years advising entrepreneurs on starting and growing their businesses, as well as assisting in financing those growth efforts. I have also been an entrepreneur on several occasions myself. By writing this blog, I hope to provide actionable advice on how to achieve your goals and become more successful.
  • Pradeep

    I have no comment..I am a creative with 10 plus years experience… started my own virtual ad agency with a team of creative who have promised to help me out…My question is this: How do I get clients?
    Who are my prospects? local businesses, small or medium- sized or large Fortune 500 companies?
    Any advice would be really helpful..
    Oh, by the way, I have another thing going too.. will talk to you next time.

  • http://frombottomup.com/ Hulbert

    Hi Seth. Great post here. I agree that starting a business alone can be scary when starting out. I really like your tips that you provided including the “finding the flip” one, or trying to turn a negative thing such as a weakness into a something positive. Your points emphasize on turning weaknesses into strengths and I think if one can do that, they will be back on the road to success. Thanks for writing and sharing this. :)

  • http://frombottomup.com/ Hulbert

    Hi Seth. Great post here. I agree that starting a business alone can be scary when starting out. I really like your tips that you provided including the “finding the flip” one, or trying to turn a negative thing such as a weakness into a something positive. Your points emphasize on turning weaknesses into strengths and I think if one can do that, they will be back on the road to success. Thanks for writing and sharing this. :)