4 Signs You're Playing It Too Safe
Falling just short of ambitious goals will grow your business. Taking baby steps forever won't.
One of the most difficult challenges of starting, growing and then maintaining a business is that as a founder or CEO you spend so much time in the day-to-day trenches that you’re often too close to the situation to see the bigger picture.
It’s easy to be so focused on meeting this month’s sales numbers that you lose track of where you are on your company’s five-year plan, and too often, you aren’t taking the right actions to get there.
My company, Fifth Avenue Brands experienced more growth in the last few years than ever before. I often found myself stuck in the same mind traps that led me to thinking and playing too small.
I had to become very conscious about frequently checking in on whether I was playing too small in growing my company and what to do about it.
Here are a few of the areas I believe are the easiest to get trapped in. They cause you to play too small. To increase my growth, I committed to certain actions.
1. You’re hitting all of your goals.
Let’s start with the most basic way to know if you’re playing too small. If you’re hitting all of your goals consistently, every month, you are most likely playing too small. Yes, the most important part of goal setting is achieving them.
Of course you want to set the right goals that stretch you but are still attainable. If your goals are so attainable that you never miss, you are neglecting your own potential.
Think about it this way, would you rather hit 100 percent of goals that have an easy level of attainability, or would you rather hit 50-60 percent of goals that truly stretch you? What about the goals that push you to the edges of your capacity and potential?
Don’t worry about setting goals that are too big. Almost any goal can be reached given enough time. So be willing to have a few misses here and there in order to truly go as far as you can.
What to do about it:
Start with adjusting your weekly or monthly goals. Move the finish line a little bit further each month. See just how far you can go in just one month.
I believe that goal setting is like exercising a muscle. You have to keep pushing until the point of fail to see what your true current potential is. Then start training yourself to push beyond that.
2. You don’t have an assistant or #2
You’ve already heard all the clichés about how your most valuable asset is time, so I’ll spare you those. The problem with many entrepreneurs is just because we can do it all, we think that we should. We also often think nobody can do things as quickly and efficiently as we can--and that may be correct.
As a result you are the CEO of your company--and also the COO, CFO and CTO. Plus you’re even your own executive assistant. This may very well seem efficient (and cost effective) in the day to day trenches of running your business.
But zoom your personal lens of life out a little. Look at your one, five and ten year goals. Begin to take calculate the math on what it’s going to take to get there.
You’ll quickly realize that you can’t hit the big sales numbers. You may even be amazed to see that you can go from zero to 100 employees if you are also troubleshooting your own website.
What else keeps you small?
What else are you doing that is keeping you in the small time? Does someone book your travel and manage your office supply vendors, or do you think you are the only one that can do these tasks too?
The problem is you aren’t leveraging your time to focus on the highest value tasks that move you towards those bigger goals. You can sustain your current business this way, but you can’t attain the massive growth you've planned on.
What to do about it:
Hire somebody to take non-essential tasks off your to-do list right now. You need to start somewhere. Try hiring a virtual assistant from a platform like Upwork and start with delegating those most basic of tasks. Commit to starting this goal right now.
As you delegate more, you’ll become better at delegating and you’ll also become more aware of the areas you spend your time. Your vision will clear so you can see which areas create the most growth for your company and which don’t. Delegate the latter.
If it’s not directly related to the core one or two functions you do as a founder it’s time to let it go. Even if the new somebody can only do the job 80 percent as well as you it’s good enough.
3. You’re not becoming a thought leader in your space.
In an increasingly digital world, social media, online blogging, and online media publications are becoming a main source of information. The internet is becoming the go-to for thought leadership for the entrepreneur and business owners.
Becoming a thought leader in your industry is key to establishing your expertise and claiming your online presence. There has never been a more critical time to maintain a strong personal brand across the digital space.
What to do about it:
To become an active thought leader in your space, you need to take the time to outline your brand. This involves making sure you have a consistent online presence, including social media, a personal website.
You'll need to establish your contributor accounts for major media outlets. There are several resources out there that outline best practices and tools for building a brand online, like this one.
Ensuring you have a strong presence on social media platforms including Twitter and Instagram are increasingly essential for establishing your position as a prominent thought leader.
Make sure you are not only promoting yourself but supporting other leaders in your space. It’s also important to become a contributor for major media outlets, such as Huffington Post, Forbes, and Entrepreneur.
As you build your content arsenal, social media will be key to sharing and promoting your contributor posts. Leveraging these elements combined with hard work and results, and you will be well on your way to becoming a thought leader in your space.
4. There’s nothing keeping you up at night.
Constantly challenging yourself is an integral part of developing as an entrepreneur. If you’re too comfortable and too stress-free, it can actually be a bad thing. Not only does it mean you aren’t growing as fast as you could be, but it could also lead to a downturn if you get too complacent and take your eye off the ball.
This is common for entrepreneurs who have reached some success, and now they are either scared to risk what they have already achieved. Some become content and forgot how much hustle it takes to keep achieving more for themselves.
It’s a great accomplishment that you’ve achieved a level of success already, but don’t lose sight of your full potential and check in with yourself to ensure you’re always striving for more.
What to do about it:
Take one of the biggest and most ambitious goals you’ve set for your business and lay out the step by step plan that it’s going to take to achieve it. Know what it’s going to cost you in terms of capital investment, time, people and resources. Commit to your plan right now by investing the necessary capital into beginning the process.
Don’t misconstrue taking risks with being reckless. Yes, you need to have a tolerance to take risks. But the risks must be tied to a clear, thought out plan and a specific goal.
Taking risks just for the sake of an adrenaline rush is irresponsible and reckless and is even worse than staying in your comfort zone.
Richard Lorenzen is CEO of Fifth Avenue Brands, a public-relations firm in New York. He speaks nationally on entrepreneurship and has been featured on Fox News, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post and more. Lorenzen sits on the Young Entrepreneur Council, is a board member of Friends of the Children NY and is on the leadership council of the Clinton Foundation 20/30 Initiative.