The Funeral of the Lone Wolf

— by Aaron Mason

Over the course of my career and certainly in my current role as Director of Expansion at a fast scaling startup, I have talked with thousands of business owners, founders and entrepreneurs from all over the world. I continually run into the lone wolf entrepreneur, someone with a good idea but going it alone. I always bristle a little when they tell me they are "hustling" or "grinding" to "make it happen". The reason I bristle is that success in business is VERY rarely a one-person show. The "bootstraps" and "self-made" mindset are now a sexy mirage of the entrepreneurial world and somewhat of a false reality.

If you can't convince at least one talented person to join you in the process, it is going to be difficult to believe that you will be able to convince investors and customers. This is one of the main reasons I am wary of the lone wolf mindset. Often times your first sale is building a team of talent around you who can help you drive and scale the idea further than you could by yourself. 

As a Christian, I have been taught to look at Jesus for answers to my life’s observations and test them against how He showed us to live.  When I view the life of Jesus I see a man who certainly could have taken the world by storm, healed the sick, walked on water and radically changed the world by himself.  But He didn't, He chose to partner with people, to invite people to run with him.  If you step a little deeper, the relational aspect of the Trinity means that Jesus never did ANYTHING alone. 

In fact as an entrepreneur, we can learn so much from Jesus.  After all, He was more radical and innovative than Richard Branson and Elon Musk combined.  Jesus was announcing, founding and then building a new faith movement that would radically transform societies for thousands of years!  If Jesus’s first move when founding this radical new startup was to go and find people to run with, then it seems to be sound advice for us too.  


Here are three observations about the power of bucking the lone wolf attitude in the entrepreneurial journey.  

1.     The power of combined expertise.  Lone wolf entrepreneurs often miss the opportunity to leverage a broad spectrum of expertise in the launch and growth phase of their business and this can hamper their speed to scale by missing out on insights that can help overcome early hurdles. When you surround yourself (and idea) with people that have talents and experience in other areas than yourself you benefit from a talent-rich combined viewpoint that problem solves efficiently and allows your idea to flourish in new ways. 

2.     The power of the combined network.  The old monicker "it's all who you know, not what you know" is still fairly accurate (although what you know still holds some weight, see example 1). In my work, I spend most of my day connecting with people throughout various networks globally in hopes of making the right connection to bring shared value to our cause. When you go it alone you are essentially putting your idea/business into a narrowly networked alleyway, however, if you are in the context of a team then you are multiplying a shared network of thousands of connections. Just take a look at the platform LinkedIn if you need to see the spiderweb effect of network and relationships.

3.     The power of accountability and support.  You can find countless studies on loneliness and the power of close relationships and those are absolutely true for business as well. One of the saddest things I have seen in lone wolf entrepreneurs is burn-out as they try to grind their way to success. Why? I would pose it has a lot to do with loneliness. When you share a vision with a team and you are running together on a daily basis to achieve a goal, it is invigorating and energizing. On the days you don't feel up to it, or are discouraged, you have accountability to continue going because your team needs you, and the support of someone gives you a jolt of energy reminding you of the mission.

So there you have three powerful results of choosing to shake off the lone wolf attitude in entrepreneurship and business. Surround yourself with like-minded people that you can build something with together. Keep grinding, and keep building but for goodness sakes grab a friend, preferably a talented one. 



[Special thanks to Philippe Montes on Unsplash for the cover art]