Benjamin Hertzog | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Benjamin Hertzog

Background:  

Procyrion is a privately held medical device company, currently developing the first catheter-deployed circulatory assist device intended for long-term use. The device is currently in preclinical testing.

The Mistake:

Pretending like you know it all and not wanting to admit that you don't.

I made that mistake a lot of times early in my career when I tried to convince people I knew everything. It sets the wrong tone with the people you are trying to build credibility with.

My first job out of graduate school was management consulting, and I then worked with Baylor College of Medicine's venture capital group. We once had a deal where it was clearly time to cull it. It got down to a decision of who is going to go deliver that news. I was the young guy but wanted to be the guy that could play all those roles. I didn't have the credibility. I delivered that message, and it was a disaster. There were people calling up the chain complaining.

When that message was delivered by somebody who had the experience and credibility, it went much smoother.

 What I try to do well is really acknowledge the end of my knowledge base and bring people around the table that fill in those gaps. 

The Lesson:

Play the appropriate role at the appropriate time. Don't be afraid to pull in somebody that has the skills or the experience to get something accomplished that you may not. When I flip it around now and think about people who work for me, I realize everybody can't know everything about a certain topic. But the best thing someone can do is fess up, realize where their deficiencies are and go get the answers. What I try to do well is really acknowledge the end of my knowledge base and bring people around the table that fill in those gaps. 

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