This is one of those “hard truth” posts.
One of those “it’s time to wake up” posts.
One of those “you’ll want to ignore this, but you definitely should NOT do so” posts.
And if you fall into any of the following categories, you most definitely MUST read this. If you are:
- Unexpectedly unemployed and considering doing your own thing
- Planning on leaving long-standing corporate employment to go it alone
- Already in the first year of running your own self-employed dream
Why? Because there are 5 areas where you are going to sabotage your own success. And it’s highly likely you have no idea.
How do I know this? Because I’ve experienced each of them myself
[I have the battle scars to prove it]
And it’s not just me – I coach people starting their own businesses and, to a person, these 5 symptoms have appeared like clockwork with each of my clients.
So, without further ado, it’s time to be blunt…
1. You think you’ll succeed because you’re really good at what you do
You may be astounding at what you do – you could even be the best in the world – but that is NO PREDICTOR of the future success of your business. In fact, I would go so far as to contend that there’s an inverse proportionality between your capabilities and your business success. The better you are, the more likely you are to fail.
That shouldn’t make sense. In fact, it should make your head do a little bit of a spin. Surely being really good at what you do is the definition of success?
Well, it would be, if all you had to do as a business was to do the thing you love.
Let’s say you’re really, really, really good at making pots. You love making pots. You know, truly LOVE making pots. And people have been telling you for years that your pots are the most wonderful pots they’ve ever seen. Just totally, completely exquisite pots!
So, full of anticipation and excitement, you form your company: Exquisite Pots. You start making pots which are, of course, exquisite. You whip up a ceramic storm. Pot upon pot upon pot flies out of your studio.
You are the most exquisite potter the world has ever seen.
Nobody is advertising the pots.
Nobody is making sure there’s cash to buy clay.
Nobody is reaching out to local stores to build a distributor base.
Nobody is making sure that the sales tax receipts match the tax that’s being made upon the few items you are selling to friends and family.
Nobody is checking whether you filed for your annual safety inspection permits.
Nobody is thinking how you’re going to keep up this productivity rate for the next 10 years.
Nobody is doing any of the things it takes to run a business, because you’re too busy enjoying making pots! In fact, you love making pots so much that you consistently avoid all these other things that need to happen – and slowly, but surely, your business slides into the mud, while you happily make more and more pots.
2. You have no idea what accountability is
Here’s the deal – when you’re employed by a company to do something, work just arrives – it’s very, very rare that anyone working any normal sort of job has to go out of their way to seek work to do. In fact, being overloaded is the natural state for the vast majority of people.
Only self-employed people know what it is to be accountable for securing the next piece of work.
When you’re employed by a company to do something, you can generally get away with doing the minimum necessary to suffice
[please, let’s not buy into the corporate mythology that everyone aspires to high performance all the time]
There are whole, spectacular careers that are built upon mediocrity – neither bad enough to cause problems, nor exceptional enough to become isolated in the stratosphere. Nearly everyone does just enough to survive unscathed.
Only self-employed people know what it is to be on the hook for every piece of work.
Because you’ve not been self-employed yet, or have been for only a little while, you haven’t had time to adjust your mindset – you haven’t yet realized that you’re playing a completely new game with a set of old rules and habits.
Unless you catch the need for a significant shift early, you’ll spend months feeling like you’re doing everything necessary to succeed, yet seeing progress stall or even reverse.
3. You believe that people actually want to buy what you’re selling
It’s OK to care about what you make. It’s also OK to take pride in your product or service. Just like it’s OK to be really, really good at what you do. But, as we’ve seen above, these things are pre-requisites to success, not the cause of success itself.
Success comes from meeting your customers’ needs. Full stop. Period. End of story.
But your whole trajectory into starting your business was to meet your needs. To make yourself feel better. To realize those dreams you’ve harbored for so long. To… erm… SELF-ACTUALIZE, DAMMIT!
And, because there’s a sense of destiny, purpose and universal-alignment at work in your heart, you won’t be able to conceive that NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU’RE DOING, OR WHY YOU’RE DOING IT.
“But they told me they loved my pots, that I was the best potter in the world! I mean, my company’s called Exquisite Pots because… because…”
Who on earth cares what they told you before you formed your company? How many new customers have you gained in the past week? How many of those interested people have actually bought one of your pots? How many have sought you out upon hearing about Exquisite Pots?
Wake up. The only person who cares about what you are doing, or why you are doing it, is you. Everyone else needs to be persuaded that what you’re offering is the key to removing risk from their life, or increasing their enjoyment of life.
And that’s ALL they care about. Full stop. Period. End of story.
How does your product/service remove risk from, or increase enjoyment in, your customer’s life?
4. You trust that your family and friends want you to succeed
Your friends and family want you to succeed. Right? They’re being supportive. They’re offering to help out. They keep telling you you’re a rock star!
But they don’t want you to get hurt.
They’re scared you may bite off more than you can chew.
They’re worried that they may not see you as much as before.
They can’t quite understand that when you put on the “I’m busy” light above your home-office desk, you mean it. You know, like, REALLY MEAN IT.
Your friends and family do want you to succeed. They just don’t want you to change too much.
But, whether you or they are willing to admit it, you are changing, and you will continue to do so.
If you don’t change, your new business will fail. And if you don’t renegotiate your relationships, you won’t change. And, if you don’t change… Well, you see where that leads, right?
5. You believe the energy in your current frustration can power you forever
We’ve all been there: stuck in that meeting, going over the same ground we covered last week, hearing the same under-performer playing CYA while those of us who actually get the work done aren’t able to do just that because nobody is willing to hold that SOB that won’t shut up right now accountable for…
It’s really easy to become frustrated with corporate life, and that stuff can be rocket fuel to the planning and formation of a new standalone company.
There’s no denying the primal energy of “screw you guys, I’m going out on my own!”
And just like the booster stages of a rocket launch, that energy will get you a long way – it may even get you into your first couple of contracts, and those critical early wins.
But here’s the thing: eventually a year will have passed, then two years, then… time has a way of continuing on, no matter what’s happening in your life. And if all you had powering your business was your original resentment and angst, you’re going to find that the memories grow distant – all that pent-up energy becoming little more than High School memories.
Sure, you hated your boss once upon a time. But how are you planning to pay the mortgage for the next 5 years?
So, how are we doing?
Did any of that ring true? Any of it hit home? How much had been on your radar before you read it?
Maybe you want to argue some of the points?
Well frankly, I don’t care whether you agree or not – that’s not why I’m writing this post. My aim is to help you start your business with the best chance of achieving success. That’s what I do, and it’s why I’m willing to stand firm in reflecting the touch choices you must make.
In this post, I’ve identified 5 big reasons your business is likely to fail, but there is hope too. Because each of these reasons is a blind-spot. Once we see them, we can do something about them. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that you won’t have to work hard to rewire your perceptions and behaviors
[typically, I find that rewiring and beneficial habit development takes around 6 months]
but it can be done. In these 5 areas for example, I would typically coach my clients:
- You think you’ll succeed because you’re really good at what you do… so decide everything you’re willing to be really good at, then find partners to help you do the rest
- You have no idea what accountability is… so get good at it in the real world as soon as possible by setting goals and performance standards for yourself, and then monitoring your own performance
- You believe that people actually want to buy what you’re selling… so find out where they are, what risks they face, what they enjoy, and how they can best learn that your product/service is all they need
- You trust that your family and friends want you to succeed… so renegotiate the relationships you need to support your success so that they do just that
- You believe the energy in your current frustration can power you forever… so use it while it lasts, while growing your own alternative energy source from the change you create in your customers’ lives
Is any of this simple or easy? Well actually it can be, if you’re willing to do the work. And when you do, the joy you experience from both building, and building upon, a strong business foundation will astound you.
All it takes is to stare into your blind spots, with the tenacity and commitment to shine the light of growth, learning and action.
Are you ready to do what it takes?
Vincent Tuckwood is a coach, consultant, and founder of View Beyond LLC. He coaches people, teams and organizations to break free of self-imposed limitations. In his individual coaching practice, he helps people looking to start their own business, with particular focus on those leaving long-term corporate employment to do so.
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