The 3 Mistakes That Get All Entrepreneurs Stuck
In 23 years of working directly with entrepreneurs (including interviewing more than 100 of them on my podcast Inter:views, Cracking The Entrepreneurship Code) I've discovered that the biggest risk entrepreneurs face is becoming the bottleneck in their businesses.
There are many ways you can be a bottleneck, but the result is always the same: you are stuck. And when you're stuck, your business is stuck!
Here are the 3 most common mistakes that will guarantee you get stuck.
Mistake #1: You Are Lost In The Details
Being an entrepreneur is the most exciting and demanding job I know. Entrepreneurship is like a giant iceberg. We only see the tip of it, and we don't realize how big it actually is until we give it a try.
As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to wear many hats, acquire many skills, and make many decisions – fast. All whilst under extreme pressure to deliver quality work to your clients, take care of your employees, and maintain a healthy cash flow. On top of that, there are no proper guidelines to execute your plan. Basically, you have to figure out which piece is going where, and how to place it by when as you walk your entrepreneurship journey. So, it’s very easy to be sucked up into the daily struggles:
There’s a technical problem with the product? Let me look into it!
Why don’t the social media ads perform as per my expectations? Let me dig into the data!
Why didn’t my team deliver this project the way I wanted? Let me review the entire process!
Why is that potential client not calling me back? Let me follow up with them!
How am I going to pay the staff salary at the end of the month? Let me call the bank!
The list goes on... I understand your company is your sweat and money, but the problem is, despite what you may believe, you can’t take care of everything. As a matter of fact, having your head stuck in the day-to-day operations prevents you from thinking about the big picture and answering questions like, Where are we going? Why? How will we get there? Are we still on track? What are we going to do about it? Richard Burrage, the Founder of Cimigo, a market research firm based in Vietnam, explained it well on Inter:views, Cracking The Entrepreneurship Code, episode 20:
“I still enjoy doing stuff but that doesn’t help me manage. If I spend 4h today writing a proposal, if I really sit back and think about it, I’d be far better off teaching somebody else and mentoring or coaching someone else through that process rather than doing it myself. Take time out to reflect more on significant decisions.”
Mistake#2: You Just Can't Let Go
There are 4 entrepreneurship stages:
Stage 1 – Pre-launch: When you wonder how to do it
Stage 2 – Start: When you get it done yourself
Stage 3 – Growth: When you make sure it is done
Stage 4 – Maturity: When you build an organization that gets it done
If you’re successful, your business will expand through each of these stages.
At the beginning of your entrepreneurship journey, your resources are limited. So, of course, you’re running everywhere, and you’re involved in every little thing (watch out for mistake #1!).
However, as the company grows, you should gradually remove yourself from the day-to-day operations to focus on hiring people, creating efficient processes to strengthen your business’ foundations, and working on your company’s strategy.
Nolan Garret, the Founder of Intrinium, an IT and Security Solutions company in the USA, shares his experience on Inter:views, Cracking The Entrepreneurship Code, episode 75:
“When we were 2 or 3 people, you could say it’s my success because I’m literally doing all of this work all the way to sending the invoices and everything else. You grow past 10 people, and you realize the only thing I do is talk to and work with other people to help them with their challenges in the business or working on a problem for a client. Clearly, they’re the ones doing the work, clearly, it’s the people who are making this successful.”
Indeed, this is how it’s supposed to be.
Except that if you don’t let go of some of your tasks as your company gets bigger, you’ll soon find yourself in a situation where you hit a wall.
We easily get attached to doing everything by ourselves but at one point you need to stop fixing the problems, stand back, and gradually let your people make the decisions for you.
In other words, stop working in your business, and start working on your business.
I remember a client who was supervising all his customers’ projects himself. He reached a point where he realized his position was unsustainable because he couldn’t find the time to do anything else.
So, we started digging and found out he didn’t actually want to delegate the responsibilities to someone else.
We dug a little deeper, and we uncovered the cause of the problem. He was very proud of the high-quality standards his clients benefited from, standards he’d spent years building. The truth was he was afraid of seeing a significant decrease in quality if he was to delegate project management.
Eventually, we worked out a solution to not only ensure it wouldn’t happen but to actually use the situation as an opportunity to increase the quality of services.
And he did. He said: “I definitely feel more in control, of not only the management but also in terms of having more direction – I didn’t have a business plan or strategy – It was very organic the way in which my company came about. So not only did I realize the importance of having a business partner with clear directions, but also it made me feel that I was meeting goals along the way.”
Letting go is one of the best favors you can do for yourself and your business.
Mistake #3: You Lack Clarity Of Direction
Why did you really create your business? Why do you really get up in the morning and go to work?
The most successful entrepreneurs are driven by impact.
They usually dream big, to the point they want to change the world.
By becoming an entrepreneur, they’re in charge. It gives them control over how much impact they can make. They can influence how things are done; they can challenge the status quo.
There are many ways to make an impact: opening a social enterprise, focusing on a good cause, solving a painful problem for people as well as treating employees, clients, and suppliers correctly.
Entrepreneurs who make a difference have found a reason for their journey (hint: it’s not money). They know why they wake up every morning. They are connected with their core business. They have developed a sense of purpose.
Japanese people talk about Ikigai. It often revolves around helping others.
Then, they align their company with their sense of purpose, which gives them clarity of direction, which in turn, helps them attract the right people because clarity helps with their message.
I’ve interviewed more than 100 entrepreneurs on my podcast. Purpose or impact are the words that come back the most often, together with resilience.
Your purpose - that one thing you're meant to do - comes from a place of passion and authenticity. The clearer you are within, the clearer you’ll be outside.
Let me give you an example. I was born to help people. I just can’t help it, it’s stronger than me.
I especially love all those aha moments my clients get when they have a breakthrough during a coaching session or a training course.
Doing what I do enables me to lead entrepreneurs to those moments over and over again.
It’s my greatest reward. And it’s my beacon.
Annissa Desphande, a Modern HR Advisor and Coach, highlights how important the sense of purpose is in Inter:views, Cracking The Entrepreneurship Code, episode 80:
“You continually have to be thinking about: Why do people come work here? What is it about the work we’re doing, the purpose, the mission, what is it about the problem we’re solving, what is it about the leaders we have, what is it that makes this place unique?”
What Can You Do?
According to data I’ve found online, a start-up only has a 0.00006% chance of becoming a unicorn!
That’s just 3 out of every five million companies!
You know the struggle is part of the game, a game you chose to play when you embarked on your entrepreneurship journey.
You know the road to entrepreneurship is paved with risks.
I told you your biggest risk was to become the bottleneck in your business because it will lead to situations where you're stuck.
That’s why, if you want to be the best at being an entrepreneur and grow your business, you must ensure it doesn't happen, and therefore you can never be the bottleneck.
It requires you to build upon 2 things:
1️⃣ Grow your mindset because entrepreneurship starts in your head first; entrepreneur coaching can definitely help you.
2️⃣ Acquire the fundamental business skills required to properly run a company (leadership, sales, financial management, strategy, communication, and time management are the most critical ones). Spend time training yourself and your team on those skills (you can check my training courses here).
In summary, stop being the bottleneck in your business!