Do you enjoy the process?
What strikes me about entrepreneurship is that you must enjoy the process of being an entrepreneur. You have to enjoy leading yourself and leading your team. You have to thrive with the ultimate responsibility for your idea's success or failure. You have to be constantly scanning the world around you for signs that your plan is working (or not). There is so much that you need to be managing - all at the same time!
I think this is why many entrepreneurs look for help so soon. Have you ever heard someone say: "I built this ________". Now what is it that we can really build on our own, without anyone's help and support. Even simple organizations in the modern world have help in a number of areas, which allow it to form and grow. For example, how many businesses could exist without the Internet, payment processors, credit cards, and iphones? These are simple things that we often take for granted. They make our lives easier in some way. We didn't create them but they help our ideas and businesses take shape in the real world.
Let's jot down a list of processes that your business needs to exist but are often a drag on entrepreneurial momentum:
- leading and managing cross-functional teams;
- project management;
- goal setting and accountability;
- any manner of accounting chores;
- administrative tasks; or
- setting up IT systems.
Many of you will say, I can find one thing on that list that doesn't sap my energy. That is great! However, if you found many that do sap your energy, ask yourself:
What does my business need today?
Our businesses are not living, breathing creatures with intelligence like humans are. They have a life of their own, so to speak, yes; but, the company's life is created by what the employees, founder, and supply chain donate to it.
We have to ask our businesses this question constantly because it doesn't have a voice of its own. Yes, we can get numbers and metrics from places like our financial statements and our Facebook and Twitter follower counts, but your business can't shout: "Hey, the process you are using to motivate your employees is bringing down morale and customers can feel it". In larger companies, we have many people listening for what the business needs. HR is constantly looking for talented individuals to support the company's objectives; Legal is poking around for issues with the contracts that could cost the company money; and Finance is asking will we have enough money to pay for the growth we are all looking for.
Now, I am not recommending that we overcomplicate our businesses by having a process for everything. I am suggesting that we are at risk of over-simplifying what our business needs because most of us are not trained to interpret the messages our business sends to us. Much of the time, we are so busy focusing on what we know, that we don't even realize that our business might have something very important to say to us in another area.
This is what I mean by enjoying the process. Many entrepreneurs start out believing that running their business is a process that they will enjoy. When they get into the details, they find that there are processes that they are not that interested in doing but critical to the business.
When you find that you are not-engaged in a certain process you should call it out immediately. Write down the process you find painful, why your business needs this process, and the impact if you ignore the process altogether. For instance, a lot of entrepreneurs don't do their own bookkeeping.
Bookkeeping is painful because there is some skill in setting the systems up properly, the activities feel very routine and offer a very low return on investment on a founder's time. The business needs this process because companies owe a lot of people financial information: the shareholders, the people supplying debt and the government to name a few. What happens if you ignore it and you need to supply information that you don't have? In many cases, it's very problematic to create the information in a short period of time. If you don't supply quality information quickly, your stakeholders can lose confidence in your ability to safeguard their interests. As a founder, you never want to be in a trust deficit.
If you find that you don't enjoy the process, take some time to consider your options and deal with the problem. The last thing you want to do is have a company that you don't enjoy working in. Yes, you are investing money in solving a problem, but don't let the money be the issue: let your business be an expression of who you are in this world. Enjoy and relish in helping your customers. Find people that relish helping you in the areas that you don't personally enjoy. Receiving help is just as noble as offering help because without one to receive help, no one would get the benefit of giving the help.
Here's to your success!
Chris Yaren, CPA, CMA, CFO
Founder, Accountifi, Inc.