Startup Founders: Identify Your Strengths & Work Around Your Weaknesses


“I can be good at everything! Or at least I can learn and get better!”

This idea is one that permeates our workplaces. Best-selling author Marcus Buckingham claims that most organizations—business or otherwise—are built on two flawed assumptions: each person can be mostly competent at everything, and each person’s greatest areas for growth can be found in his of her greatest weakness.

Let’s face it: you are not meant to be good at everything. You simply can’t be! This can be tough for those with an entrepreneur's grit and drive to wrap their heads around. Marketing guru and author Michael Hyatt agrees,

“You can’t be good at everything. In fact, you can only be great at a few things. The sooner I realized this, the more quickly I could focus on my strengths and steer clear of my weaknesses.”

In the pressure-packed startup world, knowing your strengths and identifying your weaknesses is a must. Whether you're about to start an accelerator program or launch a finished product, working to your strengths and working around your weaknesses is a must. 

What Are Your Strengths?

You can’t be really good at everything. In fact, being good at only a few things makes you valuable in the workplace. It makes you an "expert." Playing to your strengths allows you to contribute your best and be your most productive. There is value in working to improve yourself, but getting hung up on a weakness can be a liability in a fast-moving marketplace. Identify and communicate your strengths, and you will be a valued member of any team.

How to determine your strengths? Remember: a strength is not just something you succeed at, but also something that makes you happy. Your strengths make you feel strong as well. Find things that are clearly of interest and fulfilling to you, and then identify what abilities allow you to excel at these activities. For instance, if you find happiness in communicating with others and are good at telling stories, your strength might be marketing and promoting a product. If you hate working with numbers, close the spreadsheet and back away someone else on your team might be a better fit to handle the accounting.

Understanding your strengths allows you to plan for the areas where your team and business will excel, and seek outside advice or help to navigate any pitfalls you might anticipate.

Jeffery James of Life in Charge Magazine explains,

“When you know what you’re capable of, it can help you shape your goals… It can help you plan around obstacles before you reach them in order to improve your chances of success.”

Admit That You Are Weak

To be a great leader or team member doesn't just mean taking advantage of your strengths, you must be able to honestly identify and admit your weaknesses as well. Knowing your weaknesses at the beginning of a project will save both you and those working with you tons of headaches, time, and money.

Marcus Buckingham notes:

“[Admitting your weaknesses] keeps you from engaging in activities where you can’t make much impact… provides an opportunity for others—people with the very strengths you’re missing— to contribute… [and] strengthens your team.”

Knowing that you aren’t perfect and that you don't have all the answers allows you to properly plan for the future. You can immediately identify areas where your business might struggle without outside help, which provides the opportunity to engage with others who have strengths in the areas where you are weak. Knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses helps you to create a framework and process that maximizes their impact while allowing you to work with others more productively and create better results.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask!

Now that you have identified your strengths and weaknesses, you are ahead of most of the competition. The ability to see clearly and plan effectively gives you an efficiency and productivity boost. However, now that you know where you are weakest, what do you do?

That’s easy. Get help! You can’t be afraid to ask for mentorship or advice in the areas where you struggle, or you will dig yourself into a deep hole. One of the most valuable aspects of SparkLabKC is our pool of established and successful mentors. As seasoned business veterans, they provide our teams with invaluable advice in areas where they show or anticipate weakness.

In Forbes, Shawn O'Connor explains,

“Many first-time entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that they must achieve results one hundred percent on their own; however, learning from the successes (and mistakes) of individuals who have gone through the same process is paramount to accomplishing your goals.”

You bring qualities and ideas that others on your team cannot, and hopefully they bring traits and qualities that you lack. This is why you are a team. Take an inventory of your skills as an individual and as a team, note the blank spaces, and find someone who can help you fill them. A great tool is Gallup's StrengthsFinder 2.0 for entrepreneurs, which provides an online assessment of your strengths as an entrepreneur. With a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses, there's nothing holding you back from making great things happen.

How do you identify your strengths and prepare for your weaknesses? Join the conversation by tweeting @SparkLabKC!