Everyone begins their business journey from “I can do this better than the next guy” or “I’ve got this great idea.” While great thoughts, it’s already too far down the road for assessing potential success for a new venture.
The proper questions to begin the process of striking out on your new venture would be asking yourself “Can I mentally handle the stress” or “Am I willing to give everything I physically and mentally have and then some that you never thought you had for this business.” “Am I willing to lose touch with friends, miss time with family, put all my life savings on the line, change my lifestyle and sacrifice all that I’m used to in order to make this work.”
Those questions will give you a better idea of whether or not you’ll be able to make it through the darkest hours and see your ultimate dream be successful. If you don’t answer those questions 100% honestly and get yourself mentally and physically prepared for a WAR, then don’t quit your day job. This isn’t for the faint of heart.
I can help you a little bit on the mental side but if the foundation isn’t there from the beginning, no amount of coaching or daily affirmations will help you to succeed. I feel like it’s my duty to give everyone the real, “heads up” on what it’s like off of social media, at 4 AM when you’re working late, having one more devastating issue fall in your lap when you already have a mountain to climb.
To start, be prepared to be kicked while you’re down. I mean this, and if you don’t take this to heart, you’ll be done for. It’s easy to keep a clear, level head when times are good and one small issue pops up. You can simply remain calm and operate your business as usual while you find a solution. Unfortunately, problems for a small business don’t pop up when it’s convenient for you. In fact, they tend to pop up when you have just said to yourself “If one more thing goes wrong I will have to quit.” In those moments you’ll find out whether or not you truly have a chance.
To help answer your mental fortitude question I’ll give you an example:
You have started a business and you have put all of your savings in to it. Things are going well and you encounter an issue with a supplier, customers are unhappy because your expected completion is pushed back. You are trying to put out social media fires, maintain good customer service and resolve your supply issue. Tough but you can handle it, you’re tough. You get a large influx of new work and are understaffed to handle it, you could use the extra revenue and it’s good for your business. You agree to the work and commit to get it done. You get in the middle of scheduling overtime and maintaining positive morale from your team for the extra hours all while dealing with supplier issues and upset customers. (Now we’re starting to build a little stress). For the overtime hours which could run in to 2 AM or later each night to fulfill demand, you’re the leader of the ship so you will never ask your team to do something you aren’t willing to do. You’re missing time with family, your spouse, your kids and the family dog. Now it’s getting personal. In the middle of this you get a huge research and development opportunity with a window that will close if you don’t act quickly. But wait, we’re still resolving a supplier issue, upset customers, a huge new revenue opportunity, overtime, company morale and missing time at home. Now you’re really feeling the heat. You’re at the end of your rope and say to yourself as you fall asleep every morning at 3 AM “If I can just get through this it’ll be okay.” You come in the next day and have one of your team members resign. How will you respond.
This is the moment where you can finally find out how much abuse you can really take. Your doors open for business and customers don’t see everything you’re going through, they’re customers with expectation of receiving products or services you promised. If you can’t deliver, it will only get worse.
It’s difficult to read the above story and know how you’ll respond, but when you live it, you really find out your real answer to your mental fortitude.
How can you practice for a situation like this without it being a make or break situation for you? The safest way would probably be to over-extend yourself with commitments at your current job, then take on two more. Intentionally, use personnel you haven’t used before. Have two less team members than you should truly have. Use a software system you are unfamiliar with. Stay up late for multiple days or even weeks. Deny yourself access to your family and friends and see if you come out on the other side victorious. Then you’ll be able to really answer the question of whether you can mentally handle small business ownership or not.
As for the physical aspects of small business ownership, it takes a toll there too. For me, I used to go to the gym daily, I was almost 180 lbs. of muscle, could lift anything. Blood pressure was rock solid, diet was on point, Cholesterol, no issues. I got plenty of rest, plenty of food, took my vitamins #Winning!
When how much work you can produce becomes your only livelihood, you start to rethink your schedule around productivity. Your mid-morning snack becomes a meeting, your hour-long lunch break becomes running errands to get more supplies, your gym time becomes one extra hour to finish up what you’re working on so it’s complete sooner and you can collect payment from the customer. The additional stress affects your sleep, it affects your blood pressure physically. I have lost 15 lbs. of muscle because of dietary changes and reduced physical fitness activity.
Here’s another example of the physical impact on you:
You didn’t sleep well the night before and went to bed mentally exhausted so you sleep as much as possible and jump out of bed to get in on time. Breakfast may or may not happen, if it does your either sacrificing more sleep or grabbing something on your way in. Once you arrive, since you’re the leader of the ship, every team member needs direction, you need updates, you have vendors calling and you are looking for a moment to collect your thoughts. You have a meeting offsite and supplies to pick up. Traffic happens, productivity is being lost while you’re away, why stop and get something to eat for lunch if that’s going to rob you of precious productivity. You skip lunch and get back to work. You’re hungry, but around 2 or 3 PM you are so hungry you just stop being hungry anymore. Closing time rolls around, everyone may or may not leave depending on your workload and overtime. You stay later to finish up some projects, get ahead of schedule for the next day, or to do administrative paperwork you weren’t able to address during your work day. Some time after, you head home, thinking about process improvements, tomorrow’s schedule, shipments that need to made, or issues you’re trying to resolve. At home, you send e-mails or messages to your team to prepare you for the next day. You can’t shut your mind off and end up falling asleep late and repeating the process all over the next day.
I hope I’m painting the worst picture of all of these things I possibly can because in real life, it’s worse.
So why do it? Why do hundreds of thousands of people start businesses every year? If and I mean IF you make it through this, you get to an interesting little place in your business and personal life. Your processes improve making you more efficient during your working hours. You spend your energy on what truly matters. You have team members who can share the burden with you and your financial position begins to shift in your favor. You are able to purchase better equipment, automate many processes and reallocate your time back to life, family and friends. If you spend your time upfront “embrace the suck” to borrow a term from a friend, and establish good processes, your business machine will begin to run itself.
You’ll never be the same. The best example I can offer is: If you have seen The Matrix and remember the hero character Neo, he struggles every day to get ahead. He is beaten up physically and mentally constantly. Finally, at the end of the movie he begins to see the code around him, it all makes sense and he is able to be more powerful than he was before. That’s the transformation you are about to undergo.