I see a lot of people who are jilted on their entrepreneurship journey. They suffer stress, anxiety and all sorts of emotional highs and lows. Entrepreneurship was meant to be fun, it was meant to be a rout to islands, endless parties and even space travel. What happened?; where did things go wrong!
Whenever I meet with a forlorn faced entrepreneur I have five harsh truths I share. On the surface my advice isn’t motivational, in fact it seems down right depressing. Delve a little deeper and you’ll see a formula for being a lot happier in business.
Harsh Truth 1: It’s hard and it get’s harder.
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy; you’re taking on peoples problems. You are taking on problems for your customers, for your staff, for your family and ultimately yourself. This responsibility is something that your family and your staff won’t or can’t grasp (and nor should you try to make them – it’s your journey not theirs).
The problems don’t stop, if anything they get bigger. On day one you have the problem of finding your first client. A few years in, you have to find 27 clients a month just to cover the office running costs. A few years after that, you have to find all those clients and also deal with a stupid compliance issue, a 44 page credit application, a childish dispute of some sort and keep focused on your 3 year plan.
Not only is it hard, it doesn’t end. Entrepreneurship is like boxing – each victory gives you the opportunity to face an even bigger, stronger opponent.
Rather than hoping for the day it’s effortless, you embrace the challenge. You realise that you aren’t digging ditches or scavenging for food.
Your problems are all of your own making and you are engaged in the meaningful struggle to bring your vision out in the world. You stop looking for reprieve and start making things happen.
Harsh Truth 2. No one is coming to save you.
There’s no entrepreneur coming to “take you to the next level” – they are already building their own business. There’s no world-class manager who’s going to fix every problem who’s coming to join your team – they already work for Google and they want crazy money to leave.
There’s no investor who’s going to drop a big investment into your business because they believe in your vision. There’s no big company coming to buy you out for a life changing sum of money.
In every way you are in the driver seat and everyone is looking to you. Great people on your team are great because you made them great – you trained them, developed them and believed in their potential while they made mistake after mistake.
The investor buy you and your plan and they want a discount. They will want constant reassurances and as soon as the cheque clears they’ll only be thinking of their returns.
The exit won’t come until the day you truly don’t want to sell. Only when the business is world class and highly profitable will someone offer you money for it. At that point the money will seem a bit disappointing.
Removing the hope that someone is coming to save you leaves you with the realisation that this business is in your hands.
Harsh Truth 3. There’s no big wins only incremental progress.
You’re going to get a big win only after you’re operationally excellent for 7 years in a row. Within the context of the hard work and risk you take on, the big win will seem relative. Others might call it a big win but you’ll describe it as a narrow victory that was hard won.
Game changing deals are never as game changing as you thought, big moments quickly fade and huge clients come with big obligations.
The good news is that soon as you accept that progress is all that’s needed you can keep moving forward and stop getting distracted.
This harsh truth will set you free because the belief that a big win is coming sets you up for disappointment. Little wins start to compound and success is built brick by brick.
Harsh Truth 4. In order to do the work you love, you have to win the work.
Everyone get’s into business because they think they can do a damn good job at looking after clients. Most people start a business because they worked for an “idiot” who just didn’t understand how to deliver value. Very few people start a business because they think they can become more efficient at winning the work. Many businesses are started based on delivery capability, few businesses are started based on sales skills.
Here’s the problem, in order to do the work, you need to win the work. You have to get a client to transfer the money, sign the check or enter their PIN. Until that happens, it doesn’t matter how good you are at delivering value to a client.
there’s no easy sales system that generates clients passively. Great companies with billion dollar brands still need excellent sales professionals to secure new business.
You’re business will always have to win business, it’s always going to be hard at times to meet targets (if you have ambition to grow) and it never ends. As soon as you accept this idea, winning business becomes fun. You can come up with great ways to surprise and delight people, you can create brilliant presentations and work on your communication skills. You can inspire a team of people who help win business and you can find your groove when selling.
Harsh Truth 5. No one thing will work.
There’s no fool proof system, there’s no magic bullet and there’s no people who just work hard without leadership. Every system will need to be refined, every cutting edge strategy will become common place, every hot product will cool off, every ace team member will need training.
If you expect people, systems or things to just work, you’ll be upset and constantly let down. Business requires you to juggle and there’s no such thing as a ball that just stays in the air, there’s only people who get good at juggling. No one thing will work, but you’ll get better at working things.
As soon as you give up on the expectation that things just work, you suddenly embrace the challenge of dealing with more and more complexity. You discover a rhythm of preempting what needs your attention and you begin to fix things just as they begin to break rather than waiting for them to completely get destroyed. Just like a great juggler, you can keep 10 balls in the air and make it look easy.
Business is tough, but it’s great. It’s a challenge that forces you to perform at your best and it won’t tolerate anything less. The main thing that makes business miserable is false expectations. If you want it to be easy, it gets damn hard.
Paradoxically, If you embrace the struggle, it’s loads of fun.