The Road Less Traveled: 5 Key Steps for Entrepreneurs to Stay the Course
As the saying goes, “if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!” And that couldn't be more true about entrepreneurship. Launching your own business is incredibly rewarding -- and extremely stressful. That is why everyone does not do it. While we are seeing more people involved in startups in our country -- a 2013 survey documented a record-high number of people who start their own businesses -- the numbers remain relatively small. The figures are even smaller among women, with the same survey finding seven women involved in entrepreneurship for every 10 men.
Those of us who do choose the “road less traveled” will find as we build our businesses, it’s all too easy to get pulled off track. The day-to-day grind, the naysayers we encounter, a lack of focus on priorities or an unwillingness to ask for help are all potential pitfalls that call pull us off course. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Here are five key steps for entrepreneurs to ensure that we continue to travel the road to success:
1. Take a break.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found nearly half of entrepreneurs reported experiencing a lot of stress. (And the other half just won’t admit it!). There is nothing easy about starting a business. It may appear that way on the outside to others, but it is a nonstop, soul searching, relentlessly exhausting journey. With a grueling schedule and the business on their minds 24/7, stressed-out entrepreneurs can reach a point of diminishing returns and lose focus, which can result in stalled momentum for their businesses. And yet, Harris Poll survey commissioned by Staples found that nearly half of small business owners (48%) miss summer vacations due to a fear of unplugging and even when they finally get away for a break, more than two in five (44%) find it hard to relax because they constantly think about how their business is doing. Don’t succumb to the fear of unplugging! Counterintuitive as it might seem, taking time to unplug and get away can be a key step in strategizing new plans.
2. Focus on top priorities.
As an entrepreneur, everything is important. Yet you are being pulled in all different directions at the same time. The most successful entrepreneurs focus on identifying the most critical issues they need to solve right now. Is it hiring? Product launch? Funding? Once you’ve taken your time away and unplugged, you’ll be in the perfect mindset to take a fresh look at your business’ big-picture, identifying and focusing on top priorities.
3. Ask for help.
You know now what your main priorities must be in order to take your business to the next level. Before you begin to develop strategic next steps, go ahead and gather lots of advice -- but take it with a grain of salt. Advice is often well intentioned but not always appropriate.. Solicit advice from all sources but realize that everyone will have a different opinion. Talk to everyone and compile all the input and advice – and then weed through it, discarding the advice that might not be most pertinent for you right now. The process of gathering, considering and either taking or discarding advice can be a key step towards devising strategies that lead to your overall success.
4. Stay positive.
As an entrepreneur, one of the most important -- and sometimes, one of the toughest -- lessons to learn is to never let others pull you down. When starting a business, it’s inevitable that you’ll be encountering some kind of negativity. Some may try to copy and steal from you. Some you’d thought were your friends and supporters won’t turn out to be. And some colleagues you once helped will be missing in action -- or worse. As an entrepreneur, you have to be prepared, unfortunately, for the worst inhumane behavior and be strong enough to rise above it. Put on your armor and don’t let people like this discourage you: For every bad apple there are ten good ones in the barrel. Keep going and be sure you are keeping your eyes on the big picture -- and on the prize.
5. Reflect on perspective.
There are more twists and turns in the entrepreneurial journey than an amusement park roller coaster. Weathering those peaks and dips along with the anticipation of what is coming next will give you valuable perspective. I am a firm believer that our perspective can change anything. It can change how you view an event, a person or a thing. I have found that taking time to reflect on perspective has served me well. It has allowed me to build relationships where there were none, see opportunities where it looked like none existed and gain strength in the midst of challenge or obstacles that would have thrown others completely off track.
As entrepreneurs we’ve chosen a challenging path filled with day-to-day stress that can result in a loss of momentum or focus during critical stages. By taking a little time to unplug, focus on what’s key, gather advice, stay positive and reflect on perspective, entrepreneurs will ensure their batteries are charged and maintain the requisite clarity and strength. The result is we will be able to take our companies to the next level of success as we travel along the exhilarating, challenging and infinitely rewarding road of entrepreneurship.