There is a common perception that running your own business provides for more time off and flexibility, with control over the schedule and the ability to kick back and watch the money roll in.
The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I can safely say that successfully launching and growing SkyeTeam during the last eight years has been the hardest I have ever worked. Corporate life was, by comparison, relatively easy -- the proverbial nine to five with occasional late evenings.
As an entrepreneur, the to-do list, ideas and things that clamor for my attention never stop. Working from a home office only adds to the pressure, as it is all too easy to “pop into the office for a few minutes” and look up only to discover day has turned to night.
If you are finding yourself working "eight days a week," here are my tips for taking back control:
1. Are you busy or productive?
As I reflect on my career as an entrepreneur, I can definitely point to times where I have been busy -- chasing my tail, so to speak -- but not necessarily productive. The to-do list seemed to take on a life of it’s own, and it certainly took over my life.
The solution: Focus -- be clear about what it is you do and why you do it. Ask yourself which actions are driving your business goals, resulting in revenue and serving your company and which ones aren’t. Either stop those that aren’t or delegate.
2. Are you hassling or hustling?
As a solopreneur, there was a daily hustle that I was always involved in. For me, the three big areas were building it (new workshops, programs and content), selling it (meeting with clients and potential clients) or delivering it (facilitating high-performing team sessions or leadership programs). In between these buckets of work was the “hassle": reconciling the various financial statements, getting documents printed for the next workshop and so forth. Important things, but things I didn’t necessarily enjoy. Hence, the hassle.
The solution: Identify the items that only you can do, and delegate the rest. (You may sense a theme forming already.) I finally hired a bookkeeper, and I have a close working relationship with the local print shop. I no longer need to "do" the work. I just provide the quality check!
3. Are you independent or interdependent?
One of the core concepts in my book, Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships, is that work and success is a team sport. We are dependent on each other for success. That includes the solopreneur. I can see how a desire to be independent (and therefore not a burden to others) has potentially slowed me down. Now I seek opportunities to work with others.
Moving from solopreneur to building a team has been a critical step in that process. It is much more fun when success is built together and becomes a shared experience.
The solution: Identify the critical stakeholders who can help or hinder your success. Invest time cultivating and nurturing those relationships.
4. Is it me or we?
When we view success as a scare resource, it tends to limit our behavior and approach, which may ultimately restrict our success. When it’s a "me first" approach, information is hoarded, the quality of decisions is impacted and results are diminished. Instead focus on the "we first" approach -- building on the talents and expertise that others can bring.
The solution: Leverage experts and relationships in your network to do the things you can’t. Get creative, trade expertise and share introductions. By focusing on others’ success, you will find that your own reputation and success grows, too.
5. Is there time for a vacation in your vocation?
When I launched SkyeTeam in 2007, I stayed home while my family took a road trip. The rationale was that I needed to focus on the business. It was the right decision at the time. However, as much as I love my job, my team ensures that I do take vacation and spend quality time with my family, and with myself!
The solution: Take time away from the office and the business. It provides perspective and an opportunity to recharge your batteries. If you can’t take a week, then plan for a long weekend. It will make a difference.
6. Are you leaning or learning?
It’s all too easy to get sucked in to the day to day of running your business and not find the time to learn how you can be more effective. It’s a false economy if you feel that you always need to be "on" and can’t take a moment to pause and evaluate what’s working and what’s not.
The solution: Whether it’s attending a conference, networking with other entrepreneurs, reading or seeking a mentor, you need to invest in your own learning and growth plan. Learning is key to long-term success.
My list here may be all about the "or," but in my experience, being a successful entrepreneur is about the "and." It's about embracing the challenges of running my own business and learning when and how to let go, to involve others and to focus on what I am good at so that we can succeed -- together.