Being an entrepreneur is hard enough. Often those who are pursuing success become their own worst enemies in the process, ironically preventing them from ever reaching their goals. Most businesses fail in their first year; the odds are truly stacked against anyone brave (or foolish enough) to venture out on their own.

With that said, I believe the biggest reason why some businesses experience success while others fail stems not from economic pressure, lack of planning or even unforseen circumstances. Rather, I believe the reason why there are few winners comes from the top. Success (and failure) is based on this one thing:

Dogma

Dogma is the silent killer. It will crush enthusiasm, burn bridges, stifle growth and destroy any chances of success. The toughest part about not engaging in Dogma is that it's entrenched in the business community. Dogma is essentially defined as "adhering to a certain set of beliefs because that's the way it's always been".

Here's a quick story of an experience I had that speaks to the power of dogma to make or break your business:

I was young, in my early twenties. I had finally saved up enough money to purchase some new furniture. I showed up at the parking lot of [generic bigbox store] to buy a nice new coffee table. They were having a sidewalk sale, fantastic! I pulled up in my rusty old beater, hopped out in my favorite old ripped jeans and a tee (it was the weekend after all) and started to approach the salesman.

That salesman made eye contact with me and smiled - great start, right? But as he started walking towards me, an older couple in a nice Cadillac pulled up beside me. The salesman moved right past me, a buyer, ignoring (and offending) me in the process to go and help the older "wealthier" couple.

I was so blown away by his behavior that I decided to stay and see what would happen - sure enough, the older couple stood around "kicking tires" or "kicking sofas" if you will, before they hopped back in their car and drove off without spending a dime.

Afterwards, I waited for the salesman to approach me, said "no thanks", hopped in my car and drove away - he lost both sales that day.

Why do people engage in dogma?

I don't really know the answer, but I can speculate that it's partially based on society having established rules and boundaries which very much are in place for a reason and have enabled us to live "comfortably".

That said, progress often comes from bending some of the rules just a little or engaging in new ways of thinking. Therefore Dogma is a paradox - it is both the enabler and the disabler of progress. And therefore it is an especially dangerous state of mind because it's all too easy fall into.


Photo by Fredrick Kearney Jr / Unsplash

How to fight dogma

Think about it for a moment: there are plenty of mediocre businesses, and very few truly great ones. What sets these businesses apart from others? How can you be better when there are 50 other IT companies, 14 other landscaping companies, over 100 real estate agencies and 40 some-odd insurance brokers all operating within your radius?

Were you able to spot the difference? The answer is open-mindedness. Being open-minded is the enemy of dogma - the one thing that drives best-in-class customer service, endless employee enthusiasm and a reputation for excellence. When you respect people for who they are, when you stop judging them based on the clothes they wear or the way they speak, when you show genuine curiosity and interest by giving people the benefit of the doubt, you will suddenly find yourself surrounded with positivity and incredibly talented people ready to support your vision.


Photo by Tom Barrett / Unsplash

Be cautiously optimistic

Like everything else, spotting winners is a game that takes practice. You must learn to be open when speaking to people, but that doesn't mean you have to give all your time to everyone. Dogma comes from believing that things are a certain way because "that's the way it's always been", and so it's easy to get caught up in thinking that anyone who breaks down barriers is an "odd duck." The key mistake is not waiting until you've learned enough about a person or situation before passing judgement.


Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor / Unsplash

Obviously we all want to protect ourselves against giving our time to people who would take advantage of our generosity. However, lending your ear costs nothing (except a little of your time) - and you might just gain some new perspective in the process!

Remember, everyone is cut from the same cloth - we've all been through tragedies of some kind - even those who appear to have been born with a silver spoon in hand. Likewise, those who were brought up under tougher circumstances can offer unique perspectives as well. You can learn a lot just by spending time with people!

Do you have a story about success or failure based on dogma? Feel free to share it with me on Facebook / Twitter!