Part of being an entrepreneur is having a passion for what you’re doing. It’s also about juggling many things at once – projects, deadlines, people and opportunities. When you start your business, you’re fueled by excitement and motivation. Soon enough, you have a never-ending (and always-growing) to-do list and an overwhelming desire to hit the pause button.
If you’re always “on” – always producing, thinking, analyzing and doing, you’re going to burn out. If you’re not clear about where you’re going and the roadmap that’s going to get you there, it’s unlikely you’ll get to your destination. And if you’re not willing to ask for help and surround yourself with like-minded individuals, it’s a bumpy ride indeed.
The secret to success as an entrepreneur is to balance your tremendous drive, creativity and “doing-ness” with some unplugged time. It’s also about clarity, systems, support and taking action.
Here are 10 steps to set you on the path to entrepreneurial success:
1. Decide why you are in business. In other words, what’s your bigger WHY? Is it money, lifestyle, fame, giving back, helping others or perhaps a combination of reasons? Not only are you more likely to stay in it for the long haul if you’re connected to your bigger WHY, but you’ll have a much easier time recruiting clients and supporters along the way if they are clear about the anchor to your passion. Passion and authenticity are an intoxicating mix.
2. Evaluate where you are in your business. If you’re just starting out, you need to focus on different things than if you’re already established with a full practice. When you’re still laying the bricks of your foundation, it’s important not to get swayed by “bright, shiny object syndrome.” Focus on the basic building blocks before you move on to more advanced strategies. Honor the process and you’ll reap the rewards of making better decisions from exactly where you are.
3. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You’ve got to be willing to put yourself in new situations – some of which might make you feel rather uncomfortable at first. Yet that feeling of discomfort is often a signal that you’re growing and probably moving to the next level in your business. Be willing to take chances and try something new.
4. Listen to your gut. In today’s high-tech, plugged in world, we’re inundated with information. If you follow the trail of every opportunity in front of you, you’d literally get nowhere. If something isn’t a “hell yes!,” then it should be a “hell, no!” Pay attention to your intuition and only pursue those things that really call to you and feel like a good fit. Often, saying no is more important than saying yes.
5 . Find your cheerleaders. No one is successful on their own. Every solo entrepreneur needs support from other like-minded individuals. It is said that you become the five people you spend the most time with, so make sure you are connecting with positive, enthusiastic, forward-thinkers who want the best for those around them.
6. Connect with a mentor. Modeling and learning from someone who has achieved something you want for yourself is an excellent way to learn and move forward. Most successful entrepreneurs are generous with their time and knowledge. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
7. Create systems. The most successful entrepreneurs learn how to delegate the tasks that aren’t the best use of their time and genius. They do this by creating systems – customer service, financial, operations, etc. – that others can use and implement over time. Start small and focus on one area of your business at a time. Write down each step and the exact process (saving emails and templates along the way) and save on your computer or in a hard copy file so that your team can access at a later date. A few hours spent now can save hundreds later.
8. Do a daily brain dump. This is a favorite tool taken from David Allen’s stellar book, Getting Things Done. At the end of your work day, make a list of everything that you have to do – urgent, non-urgent, long-term projects, etc. The important thing is to get them out of your head. It releases your brain from over-thinking and saves you from a night of tossing and turning. It also sets you up to work more productively the next day. Select the three most important things on the list (not necessarily the most urgent, but the three things that will make you money and propel you forward) and focus on these first.
9. Get out of your head. This one is an absolute must. Daily. It doesn’t matter what you do – meditate, take a walk or a yoga class, surf, watch a silly movie, laugh, dance, sing and play with your kids – as long as you get out of your head and in to your body. You’ll be amazed at how much inspiration tends to hit when you let yourself out of thinking mode. And you’ll be refreshed when you step back into your work.
10. Take action. You can talk, think, visualize and strategize all day long, but if you don’t actually implement, you will never be successful. Money and success love momentum. As Susan Jeffers once wrote, “feel the fear and do it anyway.” The path to success is filled with stumbling blocks and obstacles. The entrepreneurs who succeed, are the individuals who, each time they fall, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and keep moving forward.
© Liz Dennery Sanders 2011
This article was taken from a blog post that Liz contributed to joinFITE.org. It may not be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.