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Working with an Entrepreneur is challenging.


Arsonists are literally lighting fires for other to put out. When do they come to work? Who knows. When do they leave? Who knows. Who do they like to hear talk more than anyone else? Themselves. They’re big picture, creative, big-idea kind of people. Attention to detail is never their thing - that’s for the little people. They’re always coming up with the next new idea; they’re excited about learning the next new thing, going in the next new direction. They don’t care that they haven’t completed the first new thing – they’re already after the bigger, shinier NEXT new thing.

You could title their minds ‘The Short Attention Span Theater”; Titles, Credits, Summary and they’re out – they don’t need the ‘boring’ stuff in-between, what most of consider the meat of the story. They used to read the book summaries and listen to books on tape or parts of them, anyway. They don’t have time for that any more so they ask other people, “What was the point of that book in 2 minutes or less?” Tell them and then they’re on to the next thing. Did I mention they have very short attention spans?

Team Building Arsonist Style

The arsonists attitude toward team building is “Hurry up and get it done!” Or – teamwork is fine “As long as they’re doing what I need them to do.” The Arsonist has a skewed sense of time. If it normally takes 2 weeks to get it done; they expect it in a day. We call this the 20:1 or the 30:1 time-skew. If something should normally take 20 days, they expect it in one; because they pay no attention to detail they have no perspective on how long things actually take.

An arsonist constantly creates new projects and questions everyone. They generally have their own agenda, and completely disregard any existing agenda. If there are rules, they will break them. Arsonists and Entrepreneurs are driven by a singular focus: variety and change.

Options Not Opinions

Don’t give an arsonist opinions; give them options. If you take away their choice they will likely attack and kill you. Because they always need choice. They thrive on choice, because they believe “There is always a way.” A typical Arsonist complaint is not that people are doing things wrong its : “People are doing the wrong thing, I changed my mind yesterday, they just can’t keep up with me.” Their minds move at an extremely rapid pace so they tend to spit out a lot of ideas very quickly and leave a lot of open loops and a lot of open questions for people working with them. That can result in incomplete projects and incomplete ideas.

Managing the Staff

An arsonist will generally prefer people who will get things done (preferably quickly) and give them something concrete right away. It’s very easy to get lost in a conversation with an Arsonist and dream and plot and plan about the next big thing. You may walk out the door energized and excited but the Arsonist is thinking: “That was a complete waste of time, it was all just dreaming. I need someone to get things done.”

While they don’t like structure they want and respect structure and they relish people who will give them concrete, rather than conceptual ideas, answers and plans. The Arsonist is a ‘conceptual being’ rather than concrete thinker and will typically come up with the ideas for others to implement.

It’s All About the Arsonist

An Arsonist thrives on being the center of attention and they tend to value and promote the people who look up to them. People who do as they are told respect and appreciate the Arsonists great ideas and ways of doing things will always get promoted.

Subordinates usually know better than to tell the Arsonist about an idea they executed themselves. They already know that to gain acceptance, it has to be the entrepreneur’s idea. If they execute their own idea, they have to be ready for criticism from the Arsonist who is likely to say: “That wasn’t done well enough.” Then the Arsonist will come up with the very same idea and perceive it to be brilliant, inspired or both.

Easily Bored and Distracted

Arsonists are easily bored. They like to bring ideas and concepts to life but they have no interest in managing them. Following through leaves them at a dead end – out of options once they’ve completed and fulfilled an idea, they prefer not to experience that so they don’t follow through.

Working on a project with an Arsonist can feel like a roller coaster ride – they get excited by all the ways there are to do something and they’ll get off track following different paths and then quickly changing course to follow another thought, idea or line of reasoning. While they relish structure, they almost can’t help breaking the rules that structure gives them.

Managing Change

Arsonists love change. In fact, they thrive on continual change to the point that most of their people can’t keep up with them. In a company setting, an Arsonist typically overloads their subordinates or their direct-reports. A company run by an Arsonist has so much to do and never enough time to do it.

Arsonists are usually charming, intelligent, very personable and social. People in the company love them and genuinely enjoy being in their orbit. They often create a great culture, which is very informal, easy to get along in. That’s all well and good when things are going their way and you don’t cross them. Cross them or break one of their rules and you might find yourself in a world of hurt. However, since it’s their company, they are quite capable of breaking any of the rules.

Working for the Arsonist

Generally working for an Arsonist means accepting the way they are and giving up the idea that you’re going to change them. You’ll only succeed in changing them when there’s a crisis situation. Arsonists quite often find themselves in the ‘Founders Trap’ where they have a schizophrenic relationship with their company.

They put people in charge to take the stress off; then they criticize them for not doing it well enough and they take control all over again. Hence the schizophrenic relationship, “I’m in charge,” “You’re in charge.” “I’m in charge,” “You’re in charge.” Eventually people in the company get to a place where they realize “Nothing will change” unless the entrepreneur goes away, dies or sells the company.

Knowing where you stand with the Arsonist and what to expect makes life easier, the work more understandable and ultimately easier on everyone.

FEEL FREE TO CALL US 415 935-1375 or email me


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