When You start a new business, you’re in for it - all of it. And it’s both a dream and nightmare, at the same time.
*** Warning, I say shit a lot in this blog. Spoiler alert: I say shit a lot, all the time 💩
There’s a few battle scars all entrepreneurs boast. As we move though start-up into sustainable growth, now is the time to gratefully, even ceremoniously, heal those old wounds and grow stronger from them.
So let’s approach the growing pains of business sustainability and meet head-on the five challenges it’s time to resolve.
#1 The Shit Show Strategy.
You’ve heard this one, a million times; “Just throw shit at the wall and see what sticks.”
I heard a business leader say they weren’t even throwing shit at the wall, they were throwing it at every available surface and fixture! It’s uh? strategy. When you’ve just started, you don’t often have the customer base or the sales to keep you busy. So you can try just about everything to get those customers and sales going. And it's a shit show, but it's something.
#2 The Shit Sandwich.
Now you’re spread too thin. You’re trying to do all the things; digital marketing on every platform, blogging + podcasting + networking, being on the sales floor AND reviwing all the website data, attending all the conferences, talking to all the mentors, and you keep throwing shit at the … well, everything.
There’s no real accountability. Firstly, you don’t even know what the benchmarks are let alone understand the success metrics to even gauge if your efforts are gaining traction. But you’re busy!
There’s so much hope-amine. There’s social media buzz, there’s a bit of PR, people came to the opening party and the big holiday event! But the sales are sporadic at best, and the customers are hit-and-miss. You don't know if you should double down on building web traffic or sales staff, and you haven't systemized anything.
#3 Systemizing and Strategy (More Shit).
This is where we start to get frustrated. We’re losing sight of the steps, systems, and replicable processes we told ourselves we'd create (because we're so damn busy). We convince ourselves we’re the only one who can do everything. We’ve thrown shit everywhere, we’re eating a spread-too-thin shit sandwich ... and now we also have to push all this shit uphill.
I don’t know which of the top three kill more small businesses, but these three truly are why 80% of small businesses don’t make it past the 5 year mark.
#4 The challenge is, the only way to grow is to offload this shit.
It’s exciting and terrifying when you hire your first manager. Shit, it’s pretty great when you hire a contractor. And you really are just offloading at this point.
You approach this like, "what shit doesn’t matter?" Because just teaching this newbie how to do manage is keeping you from your precious throw shit, eat shit, and pushing all the shit uphill importance, so … DO NOT let them smell what you’re stepping in (and throwing and eating … and the shit analogy is getting old).
So we give them menial tasks, we don’t train them, give them no reference point for ‘How-To’ and throw a tantrum when they inevitably disappoint us.
#5 The turning point from start-up to sustainable (the shit show is over).
Now we’ve really done it. We’ve isolated ourselves, we’ve exhausted ourselves, we’ve just fired our only support (and our friends and family gave up a year ago). Plus, we’re freaking out about cash flow.
As it turns out, our brilliant idea is taking a wee bit longer to make those million-dollars or thousand-customers-strong targets then we expected. But it is growing. There’s more sales. There’s more customers. There’s actually a small team willing to stick around, and even contribute.
So where to from here …
It’s time to invest in the growth.
Why do we do this?
The brain is hard-wired to avoid uncertainty. As long as we’re busy, we’re distracted from the fear. As long as we’re planning and strategizing and in meetings and marketing and selling, we’re busy.
The data and metrics scare us because we have been taught they tell us PASS or FAIL. So we keep ourselves busy telling everyone we’re investing, growing, scaling, selling, and staying above water.
What are we afraid of?
Honestly, I don’t even think it’s that WE are afraid of failing. In all likelihood, that’s how we felt about whatever we were doing before we jumped head first into this venture.
Hence, the leap of faith.
I think we’re afraid of other people thinking we’re failing. Getting a new business off the ground takes a village. You want the blessings and support of family and friends (who are visibly rolling their eyes as you passionately explain your newest idea).
You likely illicit help in just getting the thing set-up, unpacked or delivered. You even hire people who are now depending on you. The local news featured you. Your social media audience is listening. They’re all depending on YOU. And you can’t let them down!
The reality is, most people I talk to aren’t afraid of failure, they’re afraid of success. We didn’t go out on our own and start independent businesses because we’re great at following the leader. We did this because we were called to something else. Something different. Something where certainty simply doesn’t exist, and we busted our butts to just start.
It’s hard, thankless, challenging work. We assume success means more of that. More of the thanklessness. More of the eye-rolling. More terrifying leaps of faith and even more opinions and more fears. More struggle and sleepless nights and self-doubt.
Add to that pile of yikes, and that’s probably where we turned left when everybody went right.
Probably because we had such an unhealthy or uninspiring example of success set for us!
No way we want to make THAT much money, expand to THAT many markets, service THOSE types of people. No way we want to miss another holiday, birthday party or parent-teacher meeting. And I don’t know where this extra 20 pounds came from, but lets not grow any more in the mid-section either. Thanks.
And here we are …
At the precipice. The next leap of faith. We did it. We stayed in business a few years, we understand our cash flow, we have some decent marketing strategies and take advantage of our busy and slow seasons. We have some fantastic, reliable, hard-working people who not only believe in our vision, they show up and work for us. The dream is becoming reality.
So I’m curious ... where to from here friend?
What do you want to dream into next? How are you going to get there?