Beware of Pursuing ROE — Return on Ego

3 min read · 7 years ago


Technology has blown the doors wide open for many entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs to pursue myriad opportunities. But how do you decide which ones to pursue?

The key is to pursue the opportunities that further your goals – not your ego.

As an entrepreneur or even as an employee, it is critical to set long- and short-term goals to move forward and be successful. If you don’t know where you are going, it’s impossible to plot a course to get there. Your goals should become the yardstick that you measure your opportunities against.

Related: Why Smart People Make Bad Entrepreneurs

I had an entrepreneur reach out to me saying that she had received an opportunity to host a radio program online and wanted my opinion on whether I thought it was a good opportunity for her.  When I asked what her overarching goals were, she was puzzled. I told her that I couldn’t evaluate whether the opportunity was a good one in a vacuum. 

Having been in TV and radio, I understand the amount of time and effort required to do well in media endeavors. I also understand some of the limitations, opportunities and benefits around media opportunities. Yes, being in media is sexy. Yes, it can make you feel important. The ego is well taken care of here. But is it a good financial and business opportunity? I can’t say without more information. It’s impossible to know whether a particular media opportunity is the best and fastest route for this particular entrepreneur to achieve her goals without knowing what those goals are. It may be that the amount of time it would take to pursue that endeavor would be better spent elsewhere, doing other activities that have a bigger impact on her business objectives.

Another ROE trap is around social media. Entrepreneurs are looking for ways to get their brands (and themselves) noticed. However, that can lead to a cycle of spending time on efforts that rack up likes, shares, retweets and favorites without a clear focus on whether there is a financial benefit to that work. That’s boosting your ego in lieu of your bottom line.

Related: Why Shark Tank’s ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Thinks Women Make Better CEOs

If you are deciding which opportunities to prioritize, which to take if you have time and which to leave, you should evaluate if they support your goals by asking:

  • Will this opportunity/activity help me to achieve my goal? (If yes, continue – if no, abort!)
  • Will this opportunity/activity allow me to achieve my goal more quickly or efficiently than another opportunity or activity that I can be pursuing? (If yes, continue – if no, prioritize the other activity)
  • Does this opportunity/activity have a significant downside that makes me hesitant to pursue it, at least for now? (If yes, evaluate the risks/rewards – if no, continue)
  • Look at the return on your investment (aka “ROI”). Is what you have to invest in order to achieve your goal worth the payoff that you get—aka what you can achieve as a milestone toward your goal? (If yes, move forward – if no, get out of there!)

If you answer “I don’t know” to any of the above, figure the answer out before moving forward.

It is too easy to start making choices based on ROE vs. ROI. It is a big ego stroke to have people responding or sharing your material on Facebook or Twitter, doing a media appearance or participating in a high profile conference. But if that opportunity is not supporting your goal, or isn’t the best way to achieve your goal quickly and efficiently, pursue the opportunity that will instead.

Until there is a currency tied to the size of your ego, doing activities that support your goals is a better business investment.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Design Their Lives and Businesses for Success

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