Freedom, purpose, control, fun — these are just a few of the reasons people decide to embark on entrepreneurship. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to see entrepreneurship as an all-day party — You wake up when you want, make your own schedule, and choose the direct in which the business goes. But the irony is that entrepreneurs — especially very successful ones — can become merely stressed out employees who feel trapped in their career. What was once an exciting venture can turn into 14 hour days of putting out fires.
As businesses scale, they can start to take on a life of their own. That’s why if you pay close attention, you’ll see entrepreneurs who range from excited, to surviving, all the way to miserable. So what’s the difference between a thriving and inspired entrepreneur and one who’s burnt out and ready to call it quits?
Sticking to the Plan
Every business owner on earth has a vision — or at least they had one when they started. As times goes on, opportunities multiply, problems arise, and shifts occur. Oftentimes, this makes for confusing grounds for decision-making. It may seem like there are a million more things to consider and a hefty number of incentive (or roadblocks) to any given strategic move. It’s from this place that many entrepreneurs get lost. The original vision and purpose of the company fades into the background and the lure of outside approval, money, or more customers begins to steer you in random directions.
“Great people have a vision of their lives that they practice emulating each and every day. They go to work on their lives, not just in their lives. Their lives are spent living out the vision they have of their future, in the present. They compare what they’ve done with what they intended to do. And where there’s a disparity between the two, they don’t wait very long to make up the difference.” - Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited
Sticking to the original plan is critical. Thriving entrepreneurs incorporate monthly, weekly, or even daily reminders of why they’re doing what they’re doing. What is the end goal? What are the brand values? What does the business do better than any other in its industry? Keeping the answers to these questions at the forefront of daily operations and strategic meetings provides grounding — A business with a solid identity allows for a business owner who can make confident decisions a stick with them. Why? Because their decisions are rooted in the original plan.
Too Much, Too Fast
“CEOs block tasks and work focused away from internet and other distractions. They set up their weeks according to overall strategy and often use quarterly, monthly, and weekly intentions to set the scene. Slaves allow their calendar to be high-jacked, never saying no, and are easily distracted by bright shiny objects. -Kylie Patchett, business coach
Of course, even if you’re sticking to the plan, you may be busier than you ever thought possible. Busyness is so often the downfall of the small business owner — especially in the case of solopreneurs. Even entrepreneurs with teams can become overburdened by all the little extra tasks that fall on their desks. If it’s no one in particular’s job, it becomes your job.
In these situations it’s important to recognize that the vitality of the business matches the vitality of the owner. You can’t be a slave laborer without it having any negative impact on the business itself. Mistakes will be made, results will be lackluster, and inspiration will be squashed. This is why reaching for outside help, delegating effectively, and automating whatever possible is crucial. If everything falls apart as soon as the owner stops grinding away, they’ll never have a chance to breath and recoup. Even worse, they’ll never have a chance to do their actual job, which is management.
Manager or Employee?
There’s a fine line between managing a company and working for it. But the sobering reality is that when a manager’s roll slowly drifts into employee, no one is steering the ship. No one is actually running the business, which puts its future in the hands of chance.
“Before you can take a step back and focus on strategy, you need to ensure your business can keep running on a day-to-day basis without your input. You need to put standard processes in place that your employees can follow even when you aren’t around to give approval to decisions or advise them on what to do. Make your processes operational, so that the person or team of people you pass them on to have a clear system to follow to complete each task.” - Justin Crawford, Live Free or DIY
To avoid becoming an employee (or worse, a slave) to your own business, entrepreneurs need to remember their values and base decisions on a firm vision of the future. Setting up processes to streamline tasks, hiring contractors or team members who vibe with the business, and creating clear boundaries around your role in the business will ensure you don’t lose focus.