There is a pervasive myth surrounding entrepreneurs, one I am sure you can relate to. It goes something like this: “Oh, how wonderful! I’d love to run my own business. All that flexibility and control over my own schedule! I’d be able to spend time doing X, Y and Z.”
And therein lies the myth of running your own business.
Sure, it may give me the flexibility to work at 10 p.m. or 6 a.m. (always the former. . . I don’t do early mornings). It may enable me to avoid rush-hour commutes for meetings with clients. I don't have to travel so much, or work on weekends.
But, reality check: For me, the reality is that being an entrepreneur and running my own business is the hardest I have worked in my whole career.
While corporate life can be challenging, at the end of the day -- and there was always an end of the day -- I went home to my family; my paycheck arrived on time; and things were OK. The work got done.
As an entrepreneur, however, I find that the work never stops. There are always ideas for new programs and products. There’s that second book I want to write. And then along comes another invitation to speak at a conference, the client who specifically requests to work with me, the need to hire new talent for SkyeTeam. Invoices to process. Emails and phone calls to respond to. The "to do" list never ends.
And I love it. Being a successful and busy entrepreneur is the most fun I've ever had. The best job ever. With, I can add, thankfully, the best team ever.
However, as my team and business grow, I have to re-evaluate my role and re-assess where I spend my time and energies. The “I-do-it-all” approach is no longer effective or scalable. I am learning to delegate, to let go and to operate in a new way. I’m taking back control so I can perform better. Actually, I’m taking back control so we can perform better.
If, like me, you feel that you too are being pulled in a million different directions every day and the length of your to-do list rivals War and Peace, it may be time for you to take back control and perform better, too. Here are six tips that may help:
1. Create focus.
For the first few years of running SkyeTeam, I didn’t have a "plan" beyond paying the bills. I took every opportunity presented to me, and I moved from one "shiny object" to the next. As long as we were having fun, learning and exceeding our customers’ expectations, our strategy (or lack of one) served us well. But, this year, I took back control so that we could perform better.
We created a strategic plan (on one piece of paper!) detailing the areas of the business we wanted to focus on for the next three years, and the results we wanted to achieve. Creating focus and ensuring that everyone on the team understands and is aligned around this strategy has proven absolutely transformational.
Our success -- and that of our clients -- has accelerated, as we now have a clear filter for deciding on the projects we should be working on -- and those that, while fun, would be potential distractions. Our approach is two-fold: It’s focused on our business goals, and also our individual goals.
- What are the business goals you are striving for?
- What are the personal goals you (and your team members) are striving for?
2. Change your answer.
I am quick to say “yes” to requests that come in: from clients, and from people who simply want to "pick my brain." What inevitably gets sacrificed is the time I spend at my desk creating powerful content for our sessions. What else falls by the wayside is my time with family and friends.
This year, though, I took back control in order to perform better; I turned up my turn-down skills. Instead of saying an immediate “yes,” I learned to give myself permission to say, “Let me think about that” or (heaven forbid) an immediate “no.” It wasn’t an easy adjustment. I had to learn to say no with style. But having a clear focus allows my team and me to better identify what we should be saying “yes” to: those opportunities which help us to achieve and further our business and personal goals.
- What do you need to start saying “no” to?
- How will you say “no” in a way that preserves the relationship?
3. Ask for help.
I have previously written about those traits of independence and self-reliance I have that have helped me be successful. Yet, these very same traits have also held me back at times when I tried to go it alone. Success, however, is not a solo sport. We all depend on others to achieve our goals. Even as a solopreneur, I was dependent on my client relationships, my board of advisors, my allies.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness -- it is a sign of strength. The more people who have a vested interest in helping you succeed, the more likely that success will be achieved and maintained.
- What are you successful in spite of?
- When (and whom) might you ask for help?
4. Throw a worry party.
I’ve never spoken to an entrepreneur who hasn’t experienced angst and worry about a business move. The feeling can range from a few butterflies in the stomach to a whole squadron of them flying formation patterns. My "worry meter," for example, rose considerably in the early days of launching SkyeTeam.
That little voice in my head that told me. “You can’t because…” Those worries I had about the next project, the email I sent last week, the team, the marketing and more: I have come to realize that worrying -- especially worrying alone -- saps my energy and drains my mojo.
So, I took back control and now perform better because I no longer worry alone. When I feel those first knots in my stomach, I share my thoughts with my trusted advisors, my allies, the people who can provide perspective, advice and support as needed.
- What is on your worry list right now?
- Who is your ally, the person you can turn to for advice and guidance?
5. Hire professionals.
I know budgets can be tight; however, trying to do everything yourself may result in amateurish results. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should. Taking back control means that I have started to delegate. I’m using a professional bookkeeper now, instead of spending hours every month reconciling the various bank accounts. I can invest that time in something that helps to grow and move the business forward.
- Where should you be leaning on professional help instead of doing it yourself?
- What is one thing you need to focus on, and will focus on, when you hire your first professional?
6. Take a vacation.
I’m sure you weren’t expecting this piece of advice. In our company's first year, I never switched off. My family took a road trip and I stayed at home because “the business needs me.” True. . . but the family needs me, too. Also: I need me!
Taking a vacation has been one of the most powerful ways of taking back control. Time off provides me with an opportunity to recharge my batteries, gain perspective and generate more ideas to add to that infernal to-do list. Stepping back allows me to step back into the business with renewed vigor and excitement.
- When was the last time you took a vacation or short break?
- What will you do to include regular vacation time into your life?
Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you have to do it all. Success requires that you take back control and do the right stuff at the right time. And the rest of the ideas and to-do list? You can do those tomorrow.