According to Dictionary.com’s definition of entrepreneur, an entrepreneur is “A risk-taker who has the skills and initiative to establish a business.”
Yikes. Risk-taker? Skills? Initiative? Most people start their roller-coaster adventure into entrepreneur-land with what Michael Gerber author of The E-Myth Revisited, describes as an entrepreneurial seizure. This is that monumental moment in time when you first had the thought run through your head to go into business for yourself.
When I was a kid the last thing I ever imagined I’d be when I grew up was an entrepreneur. Heck, I didn’t know what an entrepreneur was let alone spell the word. At various stages in my suburban, Wonder Years existence I dreamed of being a teacher, a doctor, “just a mother”, a political activist, and even an actress. But alas, here I am – and not only do I coach entrepreneurs, I AM an entrepreneur, and mostly loving every minute of it.
So, why did you become an entrepreneur? Do you remember? If I were a betting person, I would predict you started your business because you had a dream, wanted to work for yourself, wanted more financial freedom, or all of the above – probably not because you love business development. Are you with me?
I became an entrepreneur because I have a strong desire to help people, yet I’m intensely attracted to non-convention and individualistic expression (bless my parents for surviving my adolescence). No wonder I find myself building a thriving business whose focus is helping other people build their dreams. That’s the part I love and wouldn’t trade for the world. Now let’s talk about the part that’s a challenge for me and for most of the entrepreneurs I coach.
Here are five suggestions that help my clients learn to enjoy the roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship:
Get comfortable with risk. Risk goes with the territory. Author Ray Bradbury said, “Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” I’d say that goes for business as well, especially for entrepreneurs. Being an entrepreneur is like getting dropped in a foreign country with only a phrase book in hand.
Get smart as you build on the way down the cliff. For example, I’m working with a client who needs additional capital to finance the next leg of his venture. While he has a retirement portfolio to access, using those funds and jeopardizing future security understandably creates stress. A well-timed visit with a savvy financial planner revealed creative financing options that have him sleeping through the night.
Create predictable sources of income. An entrepreneurs dream is predictable income. That is rarely the case. As you know, there aren’t guarantees that come with business ownership. There are forces that aren’t in your control with regard to the economy and revenue generation. And, since your income is often directly tied to your presence and performance, how do you ever take a vacation?
Focus on what’s in your control. For example, you might want to opt for marketing strategies that afford you more control of the outcome. For example: Instead of passing out dozens of business cards at networking events, collect them instead. Invite your prospects to become a part of your network instead of waiting for them to access you. (You might be waiting forever). Then you can effectively continue the conversation long after the wine and cheese run out.
Learn to focus. This is the number one key to entrepreneurial success. Paradoxically, entrepreneurs are often intensely creative people having an abundance of vision and tantalizing ideas. The problem is businesses also need focus and clear direction to succeed.
Make your time count. Train yourself to focus and be present to what needs your attention in the moment. When it’s time to work, work. Clear your mind and space so you can really work. When it’s time to be with your family be with them, don’t worry about work. Focus is one of your most important tools – hone it.
Build skills and confidence. What crucial tasks do you avoid? Bookkeeping? Follow up calls to prospects? An artist I’m working with whose introducing her designs into the marketplace can’t bring herself to follow up on her beautifully executed direct mail campaigns. It’s no wonder; she’s never had the benefit of sales training. Fill in the gaps of your inexperience. The only way to build confidence is to get out there and learn new skills and then practice them. This is the only way to expand your comfort zone.
Remember your “why”. Last but not least, keep your eyes on the prize. What inspiration initially created that entrepreneurial seizure in the first place? Why are you in business? From where do you mine your ongoing initiative?
Last month a woman hired me who can’t take her business to the next level until she finishes her Masters thesis. The document sat untouched for a year. The first thing I asked her to do was to make a list of all the benefit she would gain from seeing her business succeed. It took her a week to dig deep into her sleeping passion, but when she found it she tore into the project and finally completed it.
Mastering the art form of entrepreneurship is possible. It may not come naturally; you might even occasionally wonder how the heck you got here in the first place. I certainly do. It takes work, commitment, courage and probably some luck. But the rewards are tremendous, aren’t they?
It’s YOUR life…imagine the possibilities!