"Running the business is not the fun and sexy side of entrepreneurship, but it is essential to your success and sanity."
I left my full-time job as a non-profit fundraiser back in March to begin running my own business full-time. In the weeks and days leading up to the big leap, I had many ideas and dreams about what my life would be like as an entrepreneur. Leisurely mornings reading the paper and sipping tea. Time for running. Working at my own pace. Freedom. Yes, freedom. But as anyone who has run their own business knows, it’s not like this at all! While I won’t deny that it’s rewarding, it comes with a lot of responsibility, which Tina Forsyth claims often leaves entrepreneurs in a reactive rather than proactive state.
In her book The Entrepreneur’s Trap, Tina Forsyth gives her readers a dose of reality and demonstrates how most (like me) are vastly underprepared to really run a business. Things like scheduling, client relations, customer service, bookkeeping and more come with the territory and contribute to the business being a well-oiled machine. But, as Forsyth points out, these are the things that tend to stress business owners out. These things take up time, money and effort that can contribute to low returns – what Forsyth deems “The Entrepreneur’s Trap.”
The Big Idea
Your Definition of Success Determines Your Systems
"First, decide what kind of success you want to create and then decide how much time, energy and effort you are willing to put into achieving it."
Although Forsyth never fully articulates this, she implies that our concepts and ideas about running a business are backward. Most often, you continually go through the necessary motions to keep things running and assume success will follow. Yet we fail to define what success personally means to us. It ends up being this elusive thing that we are constantly chasing, but never fully grasp. Of course, one of the benefits of entrepreneurship is that you can choose to define things on your own terms.
Forsyth suggests starting with understanding why you started your business. “Your why becomes the touchstone for making decisions about how to run your business”. Most often your why will be related to freedom, money or meaning. After you establish what’s important to you, it is far easier to determine a business model and offers that support this.
Work Expands to Fill the Time Available
"…give yourself a deadline or a time frame in which to do the work and you will make it happen."
Regardless of whether or not you are an entrepreneur, there is a tendency to “always be working” these days. Whether it’s mindlessly checking email on a Saturday afternoon, or working on a project late Friday night, there are a gamut of ways that we have unnecessarily intertwined work with our personal lives. Forsyth is a proponent of having “non-working hours” and with good reason. There are numerous articles and studies that suggest creativity, productivity and overall happiness increase with free time. She suggests laying down the law by giving yourself deadlines for projects and setting non-working hours. Just as Parkinson’s Law suggests, the work will expand (or contract) to fit the allotted time.
While there are a number of tips suggested for creating the boundaries, the one I thought was the most interesting is simply having something more compelling to do. It seems that having hobbies or activities we enjoy doing outside of work have become a thing of the past.
Do the Work You Love
"It’s not just about working, it’s about doing the work you love."
This idea goes back to the The Big Idea of this book. While there are certain tasks and responsibilities that come with running a business, it is necessary to say no or learn how to delegate. Forsyth suggests that rekindling the reason why you started the business in order to determine what your role really is. What is it that you wanted to do?
In order to shift your focus to what you love to do and avoid a sinking ship situation, there are two things that need to be in place.
- Systems – These allow you to create a business that functions smoothly, effectively and freely rather than having to spend all of your time putting out fires and trying to keep up. Good systems will also allow you to leverage the growth of your business. This comes down to centralizing and automating as much as possible. Forsyth lists the top ten business systems as – backup, money, scheduling, communication, metrics, marketing, relationships, sales, delivery and business foundation systems.
- Support – take the time to really figure out what help you need and find someone who is the best fit for the job. This process requires stepping into a leadership role and being okay with delegation. Forsyth points out that this is a powerful process in building faith and trust that will allow your business to flourish.
I noticed many parallels between The Entrepreneur’s Trap and Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Work Week in terms of their ideology. But I think that Forsyth’s approach is far more realistic and pragmatic for someone in the trenches. It’s a clear and helpful approach to get your head above water and starting living the life you want.
How do you define your success? If this is not something you’ve done in the past, do you think having a definition will change the way you work?