As entrepreneurs, there may be a tendency to distance ourselves from the barriers that are preventing our advancement. Simply put, we can get in our own way – placing blame on lack of money, “the economy”, and other people. We give these things power instead of empowering ourselves.
A quick Google search can yield some pretty discouraging statistics about businesses and how often people fail after starting one. Yet, we can identify a myriad of examples that demonstrate otherwise.
Some business experts don’t put much faith into the numbers; regarding them as anecdotal “facts” meant to discourage and dissuade. Whether we give much merit to these studies or not, we can all agree that developing a successful business is not an easy task. Yet, so many of us choose to make the leap into entrepreneurship. They also say around 20% of people start more than one business and at the same time! If we consider for a moment that the studies are true, why then, do we even take the chance? What else are you willing to try with a 96% failure rate? The number of micro-businesses and small businesses started every day may give us the false impression that we live in a world of people who are definitely not risk-averse. Perhaps the risk-taker could be the product of mismanagement of their own expectations. We willingly leave it up to chance. But, how you choose to interpret the odds is up to you. What matters is awareness.
The success rate for hip-hop artists is even more bleak. Which is why I find the success of this amazing musician incredibly ironic, clever, and hilarious.
Awareness stems from deep insights and investigation about your business and industry (the market for it, competitors, trends, etc.) that produce clues on how to create a strategic plan. If we elect success as our destination, then the information contained within our plan provides us with the resources to get there. To be clear, I am not talking about writing a business plan (though, you will need that too). I am referring to the infrastructure of your business to keep it from falling apart.
A strategic plan, simply put, is a network of systems – all designed to make you available for success, should that opportunity come your way.
And the failure to have one is often the reason why many businesses never really take off. Systems in place offer security and protection. It allows decisions to be made efficiently and rationally before we err on the side of irrationality. Running a business is a mental, emotional, and physical marathon. Anything that we can automate to free up our cognitive bandwidth will give us a better peace of mind. And we all want that, right?
Your systems provide the context in which to create S.M.A.R.T. goals that are realistic and attainable. Additionally, systems offer an organization to the day-to-day minutiae activities that consume your business. One of the most painful things to observe is an entrepreneur whose expectations aren’t in alignment with their capacity to deliver.
I recall a time I reached out to a micro business owner to design a logo to promote an upcoming event. I was given a definite timeline that the order would be completed, and unfortunately, the design couldn’t be completed on time. The experience as a customer left me with the impression that this person wasn’t prepared to take my business. Their sales process was unrefined, from order placement to fulfillment. For instance, there was no system to process payments outside of meeting me at a local Starbucks when a time was convenient for the both of us. There was no communication that offered a status update of my order nor a system to record pertinent information about the order after it was placed. All these inefficiencies and more took the entrepreneur away from their business, instead of being able to focus on creating a great customer experience.
Now that you have the audacity to become an entrepreneur you must come to terms with your own biases. One of the most impactful books I have read, thus far, in life and in business, is Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The book, selected by Fortune magazine as one of the 75 “Smartest Books of All Time” offers the brave soul self-deprecating jabs at wisdom – should one decide to welcome the invitation. The result is a sequence of narratives designed to challenge the reader that their notion of success and how it is achieved is a failure to observe the existence of randomness. This is why despite the popular adage “failing to plan is planning to fail”, we can overlook our own optimism.
When we are successful, we praise ourselves for our hard work and intelligence. When things go bad, suddenly, Bad Luck arrives to save us from our ignorance.
Consider the People, Places, Things that make every business go ’round:
- Business organization – people management (people)
- Business operations – money management (‘tings)
- Customer Service..errr..customer experience management (people)
- Sales and marketing (the how and where)
- And then there’s the management of your expectations (You)
Then, as the systems you create allow you to focus on value creation and differentiation (Stage One) you will eventually move on to systems that leverage the assets you’ve created (that’s Stage Two).