Okay so you are starting a business. If you read last week's post, you have started to consider the kinds of things to which you must commit beyond the exhilarating fantasy of your product or service idea. It is okay if you do not want to commit to scaling your business and running it from there as an enterprise. There is no shame in that. Just as many entrepreneurs start their business and then decide to change it due to their true interests as those whose ideas do not succeed and the business flops.
Lesson #1 about starting a business is that it is alllll yourssss. Yes, there is the pressure of succeeding with it on your own, but it simultaneously relieves the pressure of someone above you hounding you about deadlines and "the way it should be done." With that in mind, take a deep breath, look at your list of many many options of places to start, and remember that the choice is yours.
Now that you have realized there are things called bookkeeping, market research, and email campaigns and you have committed yourself to grinding through them because you care about your mission, you must begin to fortify your defenses when the storms arrive.
Personality trait number two is RESILIENCE.
Resilience is defined as "the ability to recover quickly from difficulties" and as "toughness; elasticity". Enough said.
Entrepreneurship is like building a beach house during hurricane season.
You take care to put every material into its functional spot and build the house such that its strength and efficiency increase its value for years to come. But you build the house in Florida and you can see far into the distance (Are you with me on the metaphor so far?). Then challenges come up:
- Early investment of your own money in the house = darkening skies
- Prototyping your product = cloud layers
- People demean your idea = rain falls in the distance
- Feeling isolated = clouds start to swirl
- Self-doubt creeps in = rain clouds move toward you
- Vendors terminate a contract = bolt of lightning
- No one buys your product = the wind changes
- You pick up shifts as a barista to pay rent = the rain wall descends on the beach
- Society and the internet tell you a billion different things to do = the storm hits the mainland
Overwhelm ensues. What will you do? How much do you care about your idea? What have you put into the walls of your brand that will help it survive the maelstrom? Even if you have only built the first floor of your beach house, can you sit there amongst the raging winds and pelting rain and still take that next tiny step forward?
- Early investment --> google how to raise money
- Prototyping --> who can you test it out on (friends and family are good ones)?
- Demeaning people --> that's fine, move on to the people who support you.
- Feeling isolated --> positive self-care and reminders of the courage it takes to face the risk you have.
You see where I am going with this. There is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS a next step, however tiny, to take that still moves you forward but it is up to you to choose to take that step. This is critical to remember. Unless you choose to eliminate the business altogether (which is your choice), you always have another option. No matter how helpless, alone, lost, and foolish you feel.
I know because I continue to face hurricanes myself. Fun fact about me: my longest standing insecurity is about confidence in competence, or being competent at anything. Even when I achieved great success playing soccer growing up, I felt much self-doubt and perceived incompetence.
You can imagine how a personality complex like that has played into my entrepreneurial life. There are times when my brain goes numb and I cannot recall what I even offer people, what value I bring to them, or why I thought I could be an entrepreneur. I have moved around the country three times in the four years of my business, needing to reconstruct a network and find new clients each time. There have been periods of time when I had 0 clients and 0 leads. There was a time when I did not feel motivated to seek out new leads.
For me and my life long fragile sense of competence, though, the thing that has kept the hurricane swirling is the expectation that society puts on me as an entrepreneur. I have heard ENDLESS, COUNTLESS, RELENTLESS suggestions on how to run a business, "needing this or that or my business is doomed", from tv, internet, and social media. I have fallen into the trap oh so many times of comparing myself to other business owners and authors of other blogs (who are not in my industry and who may not actually be successful - who knows?).
I am sensitive to the comparison trap because it feeds my self-doubt.
Here is the thing, though. I would have never been in the position to compare myself to other entrepreneurs had I never started a business. Furthermore, why do we compare ourselves to others at all?
Because we care about something.
We start businesses for a reason. There is always a Why that is uniquely yours. I have written a lot about the Why because it is your brand's narrative and conveys your value for the world. In the case of the hurricane, however, your Why is what will get you through.
Every time I hit a lull or moved or felt overwhelmed or curled up and cried because I was not like X, Y, and Z founders of A, B, and C companies, I can always remember why I love what my business offers and what entrepreneurship offers me.
Do what you have to do to remember!
- Post-it notes around your apartment
- Accountability partners
- Finding that perfect Spotify channel
I am not foolish enough to think that getting my beach house through one hurricane means there will never be another hurricane. In reality, there are rain storms every day that I must face, and the hurricanes will only get bigger as time goes on.
But when that next storm comes for you, there is no greater brand management tool on the market than a good old fashioned deep breath and remembering your Why.