Most everyone knows the old saying “it’s lonely at the top”. If you’ve been at the top, you absolutely know how true that is. When you are the person in charge, the weight of responsibility can be very heavy- even overwhelming, and often isolating. As Jocko Willink, co-author of the New York Times best seller, Extreme Ownership, puts it:
“Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame”
Harsh? Maybe a little. True? Definitely. When you own a business, the buck literally stops with you.
Everyone with a new startup idea is feeling like Steve Jobs…until the reality of executing that idea starts to set in. There is so much to know and always something to do. You are ultimately responsible for successes and failures. You are responsible for keeping your customers happy, making sure the lights stay on, and keeping food on your table (and the tables of your employees, if you have them). There isn’t someone else to fix things. If something is broken, it’s on you to figure it out. You’ll probably have to do things you hate doing. Because, who else will do it? You get the picture- business ownership isn’t for the faint of heart.
As every seasoned business owner knows, the freedom you gain being self-employed will come with costs. There will be (very) late nights and (very) early mornings. You may not have as much time for your family, friends, or hobbies. And those luxurious paid vacations you’ve been accustomed to? Yeah..those might not be possible (for a while, at least).
With all the “you’ll have to do everything” gloom, and “don’t plan on a vacation” doom- why on earth would anyone decide to start a business? If entrepreneurship is in your blood, you know exactly why. The thrill of success, the independence, the satisfaction of knowing your hard work isn’t lining someone else’s pockets. You’ll feel the excitement as you watch your “baby” grow, the sense of pride and accomplishment, the opportunities and doors that open- it’s all worth it.
So, what can you do to make things easier on yourself from the start? Here are a few tips:
Create a routine. Schedule your day! Put everything on a calendar and stick to it. When your day is less structured, it is easy to let your mind wander or get off track. Don’t leave room for those pesky distractions. Keep your head down and focus during each scheduled activity. Sure, there will be fires to put out that will derail your day. But once you’ve put that fire out, get right back on schedule. Your diligence will pay off. The fires will become more predictable and manageable over time.
Get organized. This one probably seems like a no-brainer, right? But it is easier said than done, especially as your plate gets more and more full, and the piles on your desk get higher and higher. Pro- tip: start your day by making your bed. That simple task sets the tone for the day (and trust me, it will feel so much better to crawl back into a made bed after your long day). Have a place for everything. Develop processes and procedures from the start, because “winging it” can be costly. From the moment you launch your business, everything you do to get organized will pay off professionally and personally.
Do the stuff you hate. Yeah, I know- nobody wants to hear this one. Everyone has things they just don’t like to do. But when you’re starting up a business you don’t have the extra time or money to outsource everything. Some of that “stuff” will be important and necessary. You’ll simply have to commit to doing what you hate if you want to be successful. The bright side- you’re learning more about your business and yourself. Keep yourself motivated by looking forward to the day you can afford to pay someone else to do it!
It is all about the discipline. Really, it is. Being disciplined is the key to success. Your entrepreneur brain is probably always swirling with new ideas; but focusing on what needs to be done and following through with everything is what it takes to go from “person with great ideas” to “person with a successful business”. To learn more about strategies to become more disciplined, here is a great article from Entrepreneur magazine- it is full of practical wisdom every business owner can relate to.
Even Steve Jobs had to start somewhere, right? Those black mock turtlenecks were more than just a questionable fashion statement, they were part of his routine. I imagine when he donned his trademark garb each morning, it put his subconscious brain into work mode. Now, I’m not suggesting you’ll have to wear the same outfit for decades to be a success (because, eww). But I am suggesting you find your black mock turtleneck. Find the thing that puts your brain in work mode- and implement it into your routine.
Once you recognize, accept, and can commit to what it really takes to be a successful business owner, you’ll begin to see your entrepreneurial dreams come to life. We promise, you will be able to take vacations again someday.