I know a number of people who are in the process of starting up their business. It’s an exciting time, but also an uncertain time. Aside from the usual challenges faced by an entrepreneur: fumbling in the dark, making constant adjustments, overstretched and overworked by a myriad of tasks ranging from sales to technical support. But one thing that may ultimately separate success from failure is whether a budding entrepreneur can deal with the dichotomy that exists between his lofty vision and the daily grind.
Start with a vision
For professionals that foray into business for themselves, there usually exist visions of ecstatic social or financial breakthroughs. Needless to say, those businesses are most likely not going to be your neighbour 7/11 or Subway franchise. Not everyone sets out to change the world, but they are looking for meaningful financial returns, along with personal satisfaction in order to justify the risks they have taken with the startup.
Must bridge gap between fantasy and reality
Once the euphoria of the initial phase wears off, the industrious entrepreneur finds himself having to bridge the gap between that vision of success and the relatively uninspiring reality. Even if you are a serial entrepreneur with an enviable rolodex of your respective industry and a solid wad of cash in your back pocket, the initial phases of any business are not for the faint-hearted. The most revolutionary and unique ideas are also the most far-fetched. It requires tenacity, imagination, and an incredible, almost delusional amount of optimism. This process requires one to place all pieces of the puzzle on the drawing board, move them around, take some off, and add them back on. Rinse and repeat. Many businesses cannot even get through this phase, and fold before they begin.
Dealing with the daily grind
Many entrepreneurs nowadays bootstrap themselves up from the ground up. That means no secretary, research assistant, filing clerks, or even office space before the businesses turn a profit. It involves an inordinate amount of grunt work that may not be entirely familiar to those that came off the corporate ladder. What, no scanning over the networks, and nobody to take care of travel arrangements? Agility is a must. Because like it or not, you are now the jack of all trades.
No amount of projection or business planning comes even close to mirroring the reality of a business’ day-to-day operations. And there’s no time for day-dreaming anymore, this is hustle time. And guess what, a lot of work can be dreary and seem to do little in advancing your end goals. Even when you know they do, the progress may seem so snail-paced that it’s easy to get discouraged. And this is where the dichotomy comes in. An entrepreneur must be able to hold on to that vision, continuously tweak it and not be discouraged by the changes. At the same time, he must steadfastly perform the day-to-day tasks that bring him a step closer towards that vision. This is tougher said than done. Because a lot of times, dreamers do not make good executors.
The mental fortitude required for success by those two roles are vastly different. One side calls forward the ability to continually push the envelope, to innovate, and to dream the impossible. One of my marketing professor in university once said that he makes a point of leaving a project after its successful takeoff, because he’s just not the administrative type. Yet for an entrepreneur, with limited resources, that luxury of passing something off after the dream has been conjured up just isn’t practical. He needs to see the vision through, before he has the chance to cash out or to hire a team large enough to bear the brunt of the grunt work. Usually, that means the business must generate sustainable cash flows and demonstrate long-term growth prospects. This may take years.
So in the meantime, the visionary must also double as the executor, short of hiring someone else that can take on the role. The executor is someone that does not worry about the vision and all that hoopla, but focuses on the baby steps. They are less easily frustrated than the dreamers, accepts situations as they arise and disassociate momentary setbacks with the overall success of the project. The ultimate bootstrapping entrepreneur needs to play both roles successfully.
Very few people can do this with ease, but awareness of the issue is the first step. After that, go find cures: break down the big goal into smaller pieces, set clear goalposts, ask for help, read up and learn from entrepreneurs past and present. No problems are unique.
And most important, it has been said all businesses succeed in different ways but all fail for the same reason: “People just stop working on their business.”
So don’t stop.
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picture source: fortunes-fool