How often have you heard or even said yourself that being an entrepreneur is a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride? Check out this example:
“Starting your own business is like riding a roller coaster. There are highs and lows and every turn you take is another twist. The lows are really low, but the highs can be really high. You have to be strong, keep your stomach tight, and ride along with the roller coaster that you started” – Lindsay Manseau, photographer and entrepreneur
I agree to a point but there are some very important differences. When you visit the funfair you can have a good look around that rollercoaster. You can see the highs and lows, twists and turns; exactly where they appear in the journey and how long they last. You know how much it is going to cost to take the ride both financially and emotionally and more importantly how long it is going to last! You pay your money, you queue, you see people go ahead of you and survive the experience. You strap in, scream, laugh hysterically and 3 minutes later you get off, regroup, throw up, high five your friends etc. and move on to the next thing.
Is that your experience of business? It’s not mine!
How much resilience and self-belief do you need to ride a rollercoaster? What if you had no idea how long the terrifying lows and twists and turns would last? What if you were the only one in the cart? What if you had mortgaged the house to get on that ride? How would you feel through the lows then? What if all the people ahead of you are doing exactly the same thing as you but seem to be so much more confident and good at it? Now that’s how being in business feels to me. Yes, it’s a thrill ride and thoroughly exhilarating but it is also tough, lonely and full of uncertainty.
I have written about this before https://www.thechangeagent.me/824-2/ but being an entrepreneur asks so much of you. You have to develop new skills and absorb a lot of knowledge quickly. You need to shape a way of working which aligns with your values and beliefs; learn where to take your advice from, filter out all the noise from social media, learn from the experts whilst recognising that replicating what they’ve done isn’t the way to lasting success. You must stay focussed and maintain a structure to your work (a real challenge for we former corporates). Courage and accountability are key. We can all be brave on a roller coaster for 3 minutes, if we choose to be, but the sort of courage I am taking about must be sustained and grown over time. So here are five tips for braving the thrills and spills of entrepreneurial life:
Have a strong sense of purpose: be clear on why you are doing what you are doing and stay close to this. Your purpose should guide your daily activities. Use it to minimise distraction and maximise the time you spend doing what you went into business to do. My clients have often lost touch with their purpose and become overwhelmed by the stuff of running a business. Connecting with your sense of purpose makes it easier to stay focused and look to the long term.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hard work of running a business and completely forget that while solving problems and building something you can be proud of, you also have an incredible opportunity to shape the future. Even better, you have the chance to meet amazing people and do amazing things along the way. It’s important not to get lost among the trees and forget about the amazing, beautiful forest you’re planting.”–Colin Wright, co-founder of Asymmetrical Press
Seek support. The term “solopreneur” is meaningless. No one truly works solo. Get yourself a support network; business networks, masterminds, a coach, trusted peers, professional services. Find people you can call on for practical AND emotional advice and support. Spending a week doing an annual tax return is only value added if you are an accountant (who would have done it in half the time) so let in to your business fellow professionals who can perform those tasks which are not core to your business. Find a coach or mastermind group where you can be open and honest in your experiences and get the accountability necessary for you to maintain momentum. You will gain a lot of confidence and reassurance from an independent sounding board and from knowing you are not alone.
“Don’t be a lone wolf. Lean on the experience and smarts of your teammates, investors, and mentors to help solve the tough problems and take advantage of the opportunities.” – Seth Bannon, founder and CEO of Amicus
Be flexible. Be open to alternative approaches to how you run your business, reach your target market, define your target market. A willingness to adapt your proposition and approach will help you overcome challenging situations and feel able to deal with them head on rather than give up. Yes, you are going to have to be open to feedback and use it!
Self belief. Too often, entrepreneurs fail to get past the start line or quit early on in the process because in spite of all the practical help out there, it just feels like too much. Believe in your ability to make a success of your business and trust yourself that you will be able to cope with whatever happens. That’s not misplaced confidence or arrogance, just a belief that you will find a way to deal with it, you will learn the skill of public speaking, overcome your shyness and start networking, get to grips with import tariffs, learn from feedback etc. This is the underexplored area of running a business and it is the area I most relate to and work with. A successful entrepreneur has well developed sense of self; how they are going to show up in the world, day in and day out, to be successful. For me that meant getting out of my corporate mind set, developing new working routines to overcome loneliness, and deal with imposter syndrome. Coaching was invaluable in helping me find my entrepreneurial identity and belief that I could make a difference.
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance” – Steve Jobs, Co-Founder and CEO, Apple
Manage your emotions. Anxiety and fear can destroy clarity of though and customers are not attracted by desperation! We all get frustrated and disappointed. We look at our bank balance and panic. That’s normal. The key is to do something about it and not sit screaming in the splendid isolation of our home office, telling ourselves that going into business was a stupid idea or that we aren’t up to the job. Get a fresh perspective on the situation; perhaps work it out with a coach, do a work out, take it to your mastermind group. The important thing is to reconnect with your sense of purpose and recognise the emotion for what it is.
These are my tips to help you relish the thrills of entrepreneurial life, so you can strap yourself in and scream to go faster rather than jump off feeling sick and dizzy! Do get in touch with me if you’d like to work through your own challenges as an entrepreneur, or share those challenges in the comments so that other entrepreneurs can take courage from your experiences. Here’s to your entrepreneurial success!