It’s the season to get spooky. Entrepreneurs are people, too — they can express their fun side and enjoy the holiday with everyone else. However, certain ghost stories might give them the shivers this Halloween more than others.
What spine-tingling tales should you use to make your favorite business owner shudder? Here are five ghost stories to keep entrepreneurs on their toes this Halloween.
Perhaps the spookiest entrepreneur horror story of all time comes not from Halloween but Christmas, in Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.” The competitive business environment blinds many entrepreneurs to the reality of money, poverty and how their actions affect other human life. Most importantly, this tale drives home how behaving in a morally bankrupt manner and ignoring the good that money can do ultimately impoverishes you.
Dickens gives Scrooge a chance to score a happy ending by amending his evil ways. History isn’t as kind to other leaders. Consider the curse of Nix Mate’s island. This entrepreneur horror story explains how a once 12-acre island is now only 200 square feet. According to legend, the curse that ate the island is either a condemned first mate executed by his shipmates for killing the captain despite avowing his innocence or angry sea spirits seeking to avenge a theft.
The bottom line: Avoid shifty business deals and stiffing your staff, suppliers and servicers. You don’t need an entrepreneur horror story when you can watch what happens to those who engage in these practices play out in real life. Regardless of how you feel about his politics, would any rational entrepreneur want to endure the endless drama surrounding Donald Trump and his many organizations? The stress. The legal fees. Who wants that?
Entrepreneurship involves risks. Even when you design a seemingly perfect plan and execute it to a “T,” things still go awry. The unpredictability is part of the excitement of starting a new enterprise — sometimes before you intend to do so.
For example, Sean Ogle, Founder of Location 180, LLC, describes devising a cost-cutting strategy for a company where he worked as an employee, only to have his superiors accept it as a resignation. Although his business didn’t show the profits he wanted before setting out solo, the experience provided the necessary push to propel him into a successful enterprise.
Let the ghost of Thomas Edison guide you when setbacks occur. You’re probably familiar with one of his most famous quotes: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” While every lesson contains suffering, it also provides insight that lets you do better next time.
One of the most persistent ruminations entrepreneurs face is regret over missed opportunities. It’s the feeling of, “I should have invested $1,000 in Microsoft in 1986,” only amplified times ten. Sure, you’d have $3.23 million today if you had. However, the right question to ask yourself about this entrepreneur horror story isn’t, “How could I be so stupid,” but, “what signs did I miss, and how can I choose better next time?”
Get mindful when you make a mistake. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What was my goal? Failure often begins in the planning stages. If you didn’t clearly define what you hoped to achieve or prepare a clear blueprint for getting there, it’s back to the drawing board.
- What other factors competed for my attention? For example, were you juggling other budget concerns? Did trouble on the personal front demand attention at a time when you needed to devote more hours to your business?
- What “glimmers” did I miss? In psychological terms, a glimmer is the opposite of a trigger — it’s a little sign that everything is okay. Evolutionarily speaking, humans are more attuned to red flags, but asking yourself what green ones you missed can help you strategize better in the future.
On to some real-life entrepreneur horror stories. The U.S. has a pay-as-you-go tax system. It’s each employer’s responsibility to withhold the appropriate federal income tax from their employees, setting that money aside in a trust account to forward to the government on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis. They must also file quarterly returns.
What happens if you don’t? The fun starts with letters that look scary but don’t seem too bad after the first one or two. However, ignoring the issue can result in unpleasant surprises like federal agents coming to your place of business during operational hours and even taking personal assets such as your home. An LLC does not protect you from tax liability.
Usually, the IRS reserves such extreme tactics for individuals who use shifty practices during collections — remember that first entrepreneur horror story? However, the bottom line is that you should hire a good accounting team and perform regular compliance checks to ensure you meet your obligations.
Companies must take safety seriously, and this advice extends beyond investing in the most up-to-date anti-malware software. Unfortunately, real-life monsters walk among ordinary humans, and they need jobs like anyone else.
Issues like harassment plague entrepreneurs, and you might be among those who prefer to wash your hands of such a sticky business. However, such matters affect not only your employees but the organization as a whole. The folks at ESL, Inc. discovered this truth in 1988 with Richard Farley, a worker dismissed for the ongoing stalking and harassment of a colleague.
In this case, ESL did everything correctly — they took action against the perpetrator, first sending him to counseling and then firing him and restricting his building access, causing him to shoot in a side door to enact revenge. However, this event should remind all entrepreneurs how crucial it is to screen prospective employees and support positive staff mental health, taking steps like the following:
- Background checks: Although prior mistakes shouldn’t prohibit employment for life once they repay their debt to society, entrepreneurs should use due diligence in hiring, talking to each candidate individually and honoring red flags.
- Employee Assistance Programs: Health plans should include mental health coverage. Paid leave and flexible scheduling, such as a temporary reduction in work hours, can help staff members work through crises or personal situations that could adversely impact their mental health. Leaders can get creative, partnering with other companies to provide telehealth services via an app providing some coverage for contractors and part-time staff.
- Security measures: Today’s new and improved entry systems require investment but protect your capital and staff members alike. Start where you can — if nothing else, installing cameras provides accurate records for determining fault and appropriate consequences.
It’s the time of year to settle in and get spooky. These Halloween ghost stories for entrepreneurs might tingle your spine but offer insight into your business.
Draw wisdom from these entrepreneur horror stories and use these examples to guide your business. Learning from other people’s failures and mishaps can help you succeed.