Every entrepreneur has been there. Rolling your eyes at pompous advice or saying, “YES! That’s how it has to be done.” It’s part of the be-your-own-boss journey. So is getting to a point where you feel like you’re doing all the “right things” and still not kicking ass and taking names.
Personally, I hit this wall a few years ago. I ugly cried, stress ate gummy bears, and wondered if I’d ever get over it. Albeit, with the right advice and a few epiphanies, I’ve been able to grow my company to sustain myself and a handful of employees.
Here’s the entrepreneurial advice I wish I had found at that vulnerable and frustrating stage of bosslady-dom. Take a deep breath and read on. You can do this!
7 Reasons Why You Haven’t Yet Made It As an Entrepreneur
You Poo-Poo Slow Growth
If you look at successful companies, musicians, actors, or anyone in this world, no one makes it overnight. Okay, unless you’re Chris Pratt.
I was recently reminded of this when I went to the Silicon Slopes conference in Salt Lake City. I was fortunate enough to hear the founder of Peloton, John Foley, speak.
While it’s easy to look at a white man who owns multi-billion dollar company and say, “Well, duh that must have been easy as pie,” that’s not true. He and his wife/partner struggled for years before becoming profitable—putting everything they had financially and mentally on the line. Of course, four years is insanely short for a company like Peloton to turn a profit. Alas, he attained this goal by committing and never quitting.
All of this to say, wild success doesn’t happen right out of the gates. You need to get your hard knocks and put in the time to build your company. As long as you see incremental growth and don’t stagnate, any upward trajectory should be celebrated. Growth is growth!
Create benchmarks and KPIs to measure your success. That way, you’ll feel less defeated when you’re in the broke-as-a-joke phase. Taking time to pat yourself on the back for small wins does wonders for your attitude and resolve.
You Value the Opinions of Others Too Much
As a struggling freelance copywriter in my early 20s, I’ll never forget stumbling across a blog about how a copywriter scaled her business… but not for a good reason. She put herself and her newly-found success on a pedastle—saying she no longer got down in the mud with the pigs of the freelance world to gladiator death fight for small beans clients. Okay, that’s not verbatim, but essentially that’s what stuck out in my mind.
While I give absolute kudos to any woman or human for becoming successful in business, I felt less-than listening to this particular advice about starting small instead of busting down the doors of offices to pitch myself to the CEO. That is, until I realized her journey has no impact on my own and I should take bits of her strategy and apply them to my own—without the side of shade.
As an entrepreneur, you better damn well not think you’re better than the modest opportunities life throws your way. Take all the legs up and pick as much low-hanging fruit as possible. It’s OKAY to start tiny and utilize tools means for small scale businesses and freelancers. YOU DO YOU and remember that your own gut instinct and self-approval matters most. If your method works, go for it. Just think how much more interesting your autobiography/memoir will be when you shatter norms and make it off your own ingenuity.
You Aren’t Working On Your Business
Nothing throws a wrench in your entrepreneurial growth like getting mired in the day-to-day production work of running your business. Work on your business, not in it. I know, this is well-documented advice you can read 1,459,453 other places. However, it’s absolutely crucial to make it as a business owner. Which brings me to my next point…
You Haven’t Gone All In
It takes money to make money. And working on your business instead of in it takes a lot of it—a pay cut and sizeable investment. “Starving entrepreneur” should be as widely used an idiom as “starving artist.”
Whether you’re in the weeds with your new business or about to get started, give yourself a profit deadline and absolutely minimum you need to live on in the meantime. It’s better to go all in for three to five years than water down your approach to make a little more in the short term. Think long-game and suck it up while you tread water.
You Aren’t Fully Implementing Sound Advice
Entrepreneurs are strong-willed and opinionated. Are you 100 percent positive you’re actually taking the advice you read and implementing it into your business? Give your marketing and business strategy a once-over and see if you can tune up your process to include tried-and-true tips from successful business people. You might find you haven’t been and that’s hanging you up.
You Don’t Network
Referrals and word of mouth are YUUUGE. You absolutely need to leverage your network to get ahead and make it as an entrepreneur. Out of all people, I realize socializing is a draining yet necessary evil to growing your business. Get comfortable with public speaking. Get out to networking events. Go to conferences. Talk to people on planes and public transit. The world is small and closing those gaps will help you find people who will talk your business up and help you succeed.
You Don’t Practice Positive Self Talk
I’m a glass half empty gal—except strangely enough when I buy a lottery ticket and feel convinced I’m going to win. (Still haven’t, so the blogs will keep on coming until I do). It takes a lot of effort to keep my positive inner monologue going strong.
While thinking positive only goes so far (as Steve Jobs demonstrated—you can’t pray the cancer away) it’s better to be stressed out and optimistically happy than stressed out and pissed/down on yourself.
In a book by Byron Katie, (Loving What Is) I picked up a helpful set of questions to apply to pretty much every facet of my life—including entrepreneurship. Those questions are,
Is this thought true?
Can I be absolutely sure that it’s true without a doubt?
How do I react when I believe this thought?
Who would I be without this thought?
I may have lost you at self-help book advice, but if I haven’t, use this as a guide—along with whatever mantras keep you going—to stay mentally tough and well.
You Have to Keep Doing What You’re Doing
Are we there yet? NO! Get used to that as an entrepreneur. Much like insufferable family road trips as a child, some things take time… unfathomable more time than you want to spend waiting.
If you’re checking all the boxes in entrepreneur advice books and blogs, be patient. Most businesses take three to five years to really take off. Keep hustlin’. Keep learning. Stay open to new opportunities and strategies. As long as you serve a need and clientele in a unique way that adds value to their lives, you’ll get there.