Prosilience #18: Six Challenges of Entrepreneurship
Brian Gorman shares his list of six resilience challenges for entrepreneurs
This is the first post in a series on the Six Challenges Project, which brings resilience to ground level by identifying specific challenges encountered by a particular group and looking at strategies for approaching them. I’m delighted to welcome Brian Gorman as my first guest author in this series.
Entrepreneurship: It Isn’t for Everybody!
At some point, most of us have thought about working for ourselves. It might have been in response to the unrelenting pressure of a job or what feels like a 24/7 work schedule. Perhaps the thought came up in response to yet another termination. More and more people coming through the Covid pandemic are recognizing that they want more meaning in the work they do; this awareness may be driving you to consider entrepreneurship for yourself. As with all our dreams, the reality is often different than the fantasy. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. As you consider how well it might suit you, consider six challenges that every entrepreneur faces.
1. Should I do this?
This is not an easy question to answer; it is one that I work with my clients on all the time. There is both big risk and the potential for big reward. Here are two key questions to help you think this through.
What makes my heart sing? If you are able to align your entrepreneurial journey with your passion, your chances for success increase significantly.
Is this a “toward” or a “from”? Being driven by a “from” (e.g., “I have to get out of this toxic work environment”) may be enough to start you on an entrepreneurial journey; it isn’t enough to help you reach a successful destination.
2. Getting started.
It can be quite easy to get started only to discover that you are heading in the wrong direction. Our propensity for action should be set aside. Instead, make time for reflection.
What will it be like when I succeed? Begin with the end in mind. Create your “story from the future.” This is a head, heart, gut story; it is a story filled with emotion. What is it like now that you have achieved success? What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome? Who made the journey with you? Who didn’t?
What is the first step I have to take? You don’t have to know how to get there. You just need to know the first step. I advise my clients not to begin with planning; we only plan for those things that are in our consciousness. Again, slow down and reflect. What are all those things you will need to plan for (e.g., What are the stories you tell yourself that will get in your way? When, and how, will you replace them with stories that support you?)
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3. Living the life of a start-up.
No matter how prepared you think you are, there will be surprises. Some will be positive, others negative. Whether from passion or fear, you will feel pressure to work at an unhealthy pace on an unhealthy schedule.
Where are my boundaries? How much are you willing to invest financially, energetically, personally? How will you maintain a healthy blend of work and personal life? What are you willing to let go of? What is it critical for you to hold onto?
What is my “cut-off switch?” What would cause you to say, “it’s time to find a job!”?
4. Becoming a sustainable business.
If you bypass your cut-off switch, hopefully it means that you are reaching (or have reached) the point of becoming a sustainable business. How you lead and manage the business must change.
How do I and others need to show up differently? Making this transition is often difficult not only for the entrepreneur, but also for those who have been along for the early part of the journey.
What is the minimum infrastructure I need? Too few policies, procedures, etc. and your business won’t be sustainable. Too many will hinder your ability to keep pace with the dynamic external environment the every business of every size is now facing.
5. Are you working for your business instead of your business working for you?
As time goes on, business owners often find not only has the joy been lost; they would do anything to move onto something else if they could afford to. They are working for the business instead of the other way around.
Am I still passionate about the purpose that pulled me into entrepreneurship? While the passion may not be there day to day, the spark may still be burning inside, or not.
If the answer is “yes, I still have the passion” how do I reignite the flame? Reconnecting with that passion will allow you to do the tough things you will need to do to put the business back to work for you.
6. It’s time to say goodbye.
There will be a time to say goodbye. Perhaps it is when you realize that there aren’t even embers of the passion that set you on this path. It may be time to spend your time another way. At some point, one way or another, it will be time to say goodbye.
Shut it down or let it go? Hopefully, you answered this question in the early days. “Am I going to shut it down, or is this a business that will continue beyond me?” If you plan on selling the business, you will have to invest in helping others become the source of value. The business is worth the most when it no longer needs you to be the value that is offered to the marketplace. On the other hand, if you plan on shutting it down, you can be a primary source of value through the final day.
No one said being an entrepreneur is easy. However, every day, thousands of women and men are facing each of these challenges, answering each of these questions and the myriad of others that go along with them, and moving forward successfully. They are living into, or living, their story from the future.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s installment of the Prosilience newsletter! See you in two weeks.
Brian is a long-time colleague and friend who is an expert in organizational change and a transformational coach. If you’d like to hear more, check out the it’s DO-BE time podcast.