I was reading through my news headlines in Google Reader this afternoon and was reminded that the NHL hockey season is once again around the corner and in fact today is the first pre-season game for my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. You can pity me all you want… I was born with the Leaf blood running through my veins (thanks Grandpa!)… we will win the cup again (one of these days).
The fact that it’s Game Day reminded me of an article I read the other day from the Harvard Business Review about just that topic with an Entrepreneurial twist. Turns out professional athletes have it easy (who would have thought ) only having to put on their game face once every two to three days during the playing season. Monica Tate-Maile, in her article For Entrepreneurs, Every Day Is Game Day, highlights the differences between the corporate world and the Entrepreneurial world when it comes to anyone looking at starting their own business.
She specifically gives three pieces of great advice for anyone getting started on their own:
- Prepare to work long days.
You have heard this before, but here it is again. You will work more than 37.5 hours a week when you are working for yourself. In fact, prepare for 60, 70, and even 80 hour weeks as you work to get things off the ground. Even when you’re not “at work” your mind will be running through the 45 item to-do list you have that needs to be completed before 10AM tomorrow. This is the reality that every successful Entrepreneur will tell you – you will work long hours to get things going, you will work long hours for more than the first three weeks (or three months, and in some cases even three years), and it’s difficult to stop working long hours and maintain your success.
- Learn to relish the door slam.
Rejection is a normal part of an Entrepreneurs life. While you may be convinced that your product or service offering is the best thing since sliced bread, the difficulty is first in getting the opportunity to present it to a potential client, and second in helping that potential client to see the value in terms that matter to them. Remember, a door slam is a temporary set back and a reminder that you need to be ‘on’ all the time. Let the game face slip for even a minute and you’ll find another door closed in front of you. Think in terms of value that matters to your potential client (and matters to them today) and tailor every call, visit, and pitch to presenting that client specific value. Most of all, be persistent. If you’re willing to quit after a couple of doors are closed on you then you are not cut out for the Entrepreneurial life.
- Don’t make any major strategic decisions in haste.
Major strategic decisions should not be made without deep thought and reflection. When you are deciding what segment of the market that you are going to target with your product or service, don’t jump in with two feet until you understand the ramifications of what you’re doing. I had a recent conversation with a software Entrepreneur who had built a robust platform based solution that could be applied and sold into a broad range of industry verticals. The problem they were having was identifying the vertical that they were going to target first in order to build out the deep industry solution and create unique value. Actually, they had already decided on a vertical based on the existence of an easy network connection into the industry, but hadn’t taken the time to assess the market potential of the segment against their targets. Turns out that if they gained 100% penetration in the selected market that the business would be earning only $30-35,000 per year (a far cry from the $50 million they were forecasting by year 5). Take time to really understand your major strategic decisions before you commit to them (often this is a great opportunity to engage a trusted advisor to help you look at the issues from an impartial position).
Entrepreneurism is a great life for those that are cut from the right cloth and who are prepared for the unique challenges that it brings. If you’re ready to wear your game face 24/7 and are willing to commit to the long hours, rejection, and difficult decision making it is a very rewarding life choice. If you are looking for something more in line with your past experience in the corporate world (or a life that mirrors that of a professional hockey player) perhaps Entrepreneurship isn’t for you.
I will submit one caveat to the above. I know of a number of people who are willing to commit to the long hours and rejection, but who still struggle with achieving the dedication to stay on top of their new business in the early going. If you are setting out on your own but are concerned with the potential that you may be at risk for losing focus when you control your own destiny and commitments or that you might make errors in strategic judgment that doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful as a business owner, only that you may need some support.
Give us a call today to discuss the advisory services that Key Consulting can provide that will help to maintain your focus and discipline, ensure that you are hitting your controllable milestones, and work with you to provide impartial reviews before making important strategic decisions.
I’d love to hear other Entrepreneur’s stories of their start-up. Was your experience much like that described in the article or were you successful in emulating the life of a professional hockey player? (If you managed to pull of the latter we should talk more… you hold some magical key that I need to understand!).
Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.