Thomas Carlyle said – Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see farther.
It has been a few months now since I handed over my employee badge and stepped on to the road less travelled of entrepreneurship. Still surviving and never been happier !
My last blog on this topic elicited a lot of interest and questions and I thought it would be a good idea to take stock of what I have seen so far and share what I have learnt on this journey. While I did know when I started out that my life is going to change in a BIG way, what I probably had not realized as much was that most of the change would have to be in my mindset – my thoughts and approach to situations. HBS professor Howard Stevenson in his book – Breakthrough Entrepreneurship – defined Entrepreneurship as “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” And that certainly is a great definition in my case. As a micro-entrepreneur, my access to resources is certainly limited and I am learning how to be resourceful, identify the resources that I do have and find access to the resources that I don’t have.
So here are the five mind-shifts that I have realized I need to make and work on:
Resource #1 Time – Time is more valuable than Money: It took me around a month to realize that “time is money” is an advice best ignored as it is a definite trap. I had broken up my working hours into slots that I planned to sell. Then I realized the only way to make more money from my work is to make more time to work. And then days and nights, weekends and weekdays all started blurring into each other pretty soon till I was at a point where I lost track of all time. There are just not enough hours in the day for the work that I want to do and the kind of success that I want to achieve. Lesson learned – I need to learn the art of saying “NO” and also need to systemize my work to achieve scalability. Think about the outcome I want and then work backwards breaking it up into tasks and checklists and documenting all of it so that I create repeatable processes that clients and my team can use to deliver identical results every time–especially when I am not there. This is about moving from the “no one can do it better than me” mindset to “enabling and creating capabilities outside of me” so that I can free up my time and attention for the next level of challenges and opportunities.
Resource #2 Finances - I am my safety blanket: The luxury of a pay cheque at the end of the month is gone – so also is all the benefits and savings towards a pension that got automatically taken care of by my employer. So now the responsibility lies solely with me to ensure that I plan my finances in such a way that I am keeping aside some of the money for the future. Never being very good with personal finances, I have had to give considerable thought to this especially when one of the golden rules of entrepreneurship is to have a nest egg for living expenses and emergencies for at least one year before expanding the business or your lifestyle. This will need a lot of juggling and some level of discipline in me to achieve.
Resource #3 Ability and Skills - I am solely responsible for MY performance and growth: No more annual performance appraisals and goal setting by managers (that’s actually a relief as I have never believed in them anyway). And there is no option of learning on the job as you are expected to deliver from day one as a consultant. So, if I have to grow, it is unto me to take charge of my learning curve while balancing the two points above – time and finances. I am reading up on goal setting – 30, 60, 90 days plans that will work well for me and my business. I have also created a goal poster for myself to help me visualize my success and urge me forward. I had never imagined that I would end up spending so much time on this area ultimately considering that this was an area I never gave much attention to as an employee.
Resource #4 Technology and Tools – I am my support function: The life-lines of calling up the IT department or admin to take care of my IT or admin needs is over. I have to build up my own support structure so that I don’t waste my precious time on tasks such as creating invoices, backing up data, setting up a LAN, etc. – all business critical functions but not my core competency. I need to concentrate on my strengths and take help on or delegate my weaknesses. Hence the need to investigate the right set of tools and technology to improve my productivity. I also have to look at functions that can be delegated or outsourced with ease so I am keeping a checklist of things and documenting the processes that I need to outsource in the near future instead of trying to do it all myself. That’s another change in thought process that is important in making a smooth transition from employee to entrepreneur.
Resource #5 Being Visible – I am my marketing and sales engine – and that means that I have to move from being an introvert to someone who doesn’t shy away from marketing and legitimately promoting myself – the biggest mind shift that I have to make. This is probably something that I should have been doing as an employee too but I always thought that my work would speak for itself (and it did to some extent). Recognizing my value myself and ensuring that others know it too, never under-selling and pushing back or forward as needed is critical for my business growth. Confidence comes from action is something that I now realize too well – so my to-do list is now almost full of actions that I need to take to make me and my business visible. Sacha Chua – a fellow entrepreneur sums up it up very well in her sketch note here.
So are you in the same boat? What shifts did you have to make in your entrepreneurship journey? What else do I need to re-learn? I would love to hear back and learn from your experiences.
Pic courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uggboy/5383116954