I have been working with entrepreneurs for more than two decades. I interviewed more than a hundred of them on my podcast. Over the years, I have learned three critical things about entrepreneurship.
a) Being an entrepreneur is a calling
If you have to ask yourself the question: Am I an entrepreneur? Chances are you aren’t.
Entrepreneurs are people who feel a strong urge to be who they are. They don’t see any alternative.
In other words, you are, or you aren’t an entrepreneur; there is no in-between.
b) Entrepreneurship is a mindset
Being an entrepreneur starts in your head.
It does require business skills (e.g., leadership, financial management, communication, etc.), but they aren’t as crucial as your mental game.
Indeed, entrepreneurs get to wear many hats, acquire many skills, and make many decisions – fast. All whilst under extreme pressure to deliver quality work to their clients, take care of their employees, and maintain a healthy cash flow.
So, like the best professional athletes, the most successful entrepreneurs are always mentally prepared to tackle the challenges they will face.
c) The biggest risk you face as an entrepreneur is becoming the bottleneck in your business
There are many ways you can be a bottleneck, but the outcome is always the same: you are stuck.
Why is it your biggest risk? Because you are your business. When you thrive, your business thrives. So, when you are stuck, your business is stuck.
As a result, your company stagnates, and you can’t find solutions to grow it.
If you can relate, don’t despair. There are ways to get out of the bottleneck and focus on the next growth phase.
Let me share the top 5 practical ways to get unstuck.
#1 Cultivate Grit: Entrepreneurship Is a Journey
Every entrepreneur will tell you that entrepreneurship is a journey.
It isn’t like a game where you get to the last level, and it is over. Entrepreneurship is a life-long game. The number of levels is infinite. And like any great game, you need to destroy the “boss” before moving to the next level.
As an entrepreneur, you usually begin from scratch with something you are passionate about but doesn’t exist, and patiently build it up piece by piece. But the construction never ends. There is always a new piece to add.
To make it more complicated, you have somewhat of a plan in mind, but there are no proper guidelines to execute it. So, you must figure out which piece is going where and how to place it when as you walk the journey. It is a slow process, full of uncertainty.
Sometimes, you must destroy part of the construction and rebuild. Sometimes, you must entirely give up and start from scratch again.
That is why being an entrepreneur is so addictive and difficult at the same time.
So, how can you make it? The first thing you need to work on is your fortitude. You must make sure that your mindset is in a place where you are ready.
In other words, cultivate grit.
Individuals with grit demonstrate passion and perseverance toward a goal despite being confronted by significant obstacles and distractions.
Doesn’t it sound like being an entrepreneur?
Imagine watering a plant. First, you don’t see much progress, but if you persist, if you continue to do it properly, feed it, and take proper measures to ensure it is growing strong, the plant will blossom, and you will eventually yield results.
You will know you have grit when no matter what happens, you can pick yourself up, move forward, and still be successful. You will know you have grit when, if something or someone tries to stop you, maybe it will put you down for a while, but after that, you won’t see any other way but to move on.
#2 Have Clarity of Direction: Where Can You Make an Impact?
Entrepreneurs are driven by impact. They usually dream big, to the point they want to change the world.
By becoming an entrepreneur, you are in charge. It gives you control over how much impact you can make. You can influence how things are done and you can challenge the status quo. There are many ways to make an impact as an entrepreneur: opening a social enterprise, focusing on a good cause, solving a painful problem for people as well as treating employees, clients, and suppliers correctly.
Just take the example of Patagonia’s owner who recently decided to “go purpose” as he describes it. He transferred 100% of the company’s voting stock to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, created to protect the company’s values, and gave 100% of the nonvoting stock to the Holdfast Collective, a non-profit dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature.
Entrepreneurs who make a difference have found a reason for their business to exist (hint: it is not money). Japanese people call it Ikigai. Simon Sinek calls it a why. I like to call it a sense of purpose. It often revolves around helping others. And entrepreneurs who found it align their companies with it.
When your purpose, people, and product all come together, you create a real impact. It will provide you with clarity of direction, drive your business and your decisions, help you design your offer, dictate who your ideal clients are, and gather all your stakeholders under the same banner.
#3 Think Strategy: Remove Yourself from Operations
Entrepreneurs have so many things to think about, do and learn that it is very easy to be sucked up into daily struggles.
Here are some examples:
- There’s a technical problem with the product? Let me investigate it!
- Why don’t the social media ads perform as per my expectations? Let me dig into the data!
- Why didn’t my team deliver this project the way I wanted? Let me review the entire process!
- Why is that potential client not calling me back? Let me follow up with them!
- How will I pay the staff salary at the end of the month? Let me call the bank!
Your company is your sweat and money, and you want to make sure that everything runs smoothly, but the problem is, despite what you may believe, you cannot take care of everything.
Having your head swamped with day-to-day operations prevents you from thinking about the big picture and answering questions like Where are we going? Why? How will we get there? Are we still on track?
Your priority as the company’s owner is to focus on strategy: ensuring you know where you are going, why you are going over there, and have a rough idea of how you will get to your destination.
When you’re too focused on operations, you’re driving your business blindfolded. Your business needs a strategy. One that not only focuses on the long term but that is also flexible enough to adapt to the constantly changing business environment.
So, you need to dedicate time to reflect and think about such a strategy and ensure a plan of action is designed to reach the goals.
In brief, spend less time working on your business and more time working on it. Then, communicate your strategy to your people, ensure they get aligned with it and execute it for you.
The larger your company becomes, the more strategy-focused your role should move toward and the more detached you should be from day-to-day operations.
#4 Let Go: Readjust Your Role as Your Company Scales
There are 4 entrepreneurship stages:
- Stage 1 – Pre-launch: When you wonder how to do it
- Stage 2 – Start: When you get it done yourself
- Stage 3 – Growth: When you make sure it is done
- Stage 4 – Maturity: When you build an entity that gets done
If you are successful, your business will expand through these stages. At the beginning of the journey, as your resources are limited, you are running everywhere, involved in every little thing.
However, as the company grows, you should gradually remove yourself from the day-to-day operations to focus on hiring people, creating efficient processes to strengthen your business’ foundations, and working on your company’s strategy.
A point in time comes when you need to let others build the business for you. But it cannot happen if everything is tied around you. That is why learning to let go is one of the greatest favours you can do for yourself and your business.
And if you don’t, you will become the bottleneck in your business.
I remember a client who was supervising all his customers’ projects himself. He reached a point where he realized his position was unsustainable because he couldn’t find the time to do anything else and started by reflecting on his business. He was telling me he loved the interactions with his clients, which is why he was deeply involved with them.
So, we started digging and found out he didn’t want to delegate the responsibilities to someone else. We dug a little deeper and uncovered the problem’s root cause. He was very proud of the high-quality standards his clients benefited from, which he had spent years building.
The truth was he was afraid of seeing a significant decrease in quality if he was to delegate project management. So, we worked out a solution to not only ensure it wouldn’t happen but to use the situation as an opportunity to increase the quality of services. And he did.
#5 Surround Yourself With People: You Cannot Make It By Yourself
Despite how isolated you may feel sometimes, let me tell you: Entrepreneurs, you are not alone!
The truth is you cannot succeed without the help of others. Others include people within your organization, like your employees, as well as people outside your organization such as your clients, suppliers, advisors, and other stakeholders.
Surround yourself with people because they are more resilient than technology. When technology breaks down, you need people to fix it.
Internally, don’t recruit people who are built based on your profile. It is tempting to find clones of yourself, but you multiply your strengths and weaknesses by doing that. Instead, take as much time as you need to hire the best people for your business. Not necessarily the most gifted, but people who combine passion, the right attitude, an alignment with your values, and a good dose of technical skills.
Externally, be aware when your experience is no longer enough and when you need people from outside your organization to help you and bring them on board. Accepting external help is not necessarily easy. Nevertheless, learn to be humble about the fact that you need advice, and that you require the help of others. People outside your organization are very valuable as they bring a different perspective on your situation.
In addition, they may have dealt with similar issues you are facing right now, and therefore can provide you with some practical tips on how to tackle them.
Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.