By Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker
It’s taken months – maybe years – to get to the point of launching your venture. You hammered an idea into the shape of a business, found a way to fund it, acquired all the talent you needed to run it, found a location for your operations, and even landed some pre-orders. The gestation period is finally over, and you have a bouncing baby business. Now what?
Especially when your business is young, it will demand a lot of attention. You will not get as much sleep as you got before you became an entrepreneur. You’ll find yourself getting caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of your operations. Tiny emergencies – and sometimes not-so-tiny ones – crop up on a daily basis. Those crises don’t have any regard for the effort involved in getting ready to open the doors each day, keeping the lights on, and managing relationships with clients, vendors, and investors. Sometimes, you can feel exhausted just thinking about all you have to do.
Beyond fatigue, all this attention to daily detail can also cost you in term of losing your long-term vision for your company’s life. Like a shaping a bonsai or even a Christmas tree, early decisions determine the path and shape of future growth. So it’s imperative to make those decisions that affect the future of your business very carefully. Sometimes this requires taking three different points of view: looking up, looking backward, and looking forward.
Dealing with the day-to-day makes us keep our heads down and can focus us inward. But you can’t stay focused inside with your head buried in the business all the time. You need to look up and look out to gain a fresh perspective. There are relationships you need to cultivate between yourself, your business and others. As tempting as it is to batten down the hatches and to feel that you need to get your own house in order before speaking to anyone outside, don’t do it. You will need the solid relationships you make and maintain for the whole of your company’s life. Don’t let them atrophy while you put out daily fires.
Speaking with advisers, board members, customers, and other people in your industry can help you see the larger possibilities for your business. And you can learn about different ways to approach problems, find solutions, and prevent fires from starting in the first place.
Often when we say to look backward, we think of reviewing lost opportunities. But what I mean here is pretty much the exact opposite: you need to remember why you started in the first place. Recalling why entrepreneurship is important for you, personally, is essential to your mental wellbeing and your future. Think about how wonderful it is to be able to choose your own fate. Those very decisions that can feel so weighty from day to day are a gift you gave yourself when you started your business. You can draw motivation from reminding yourself of this independence when you feel as if you are caught in a hamster wheel.
The third direction to look is forward. Where are your business, your industry, your market, and your competitors going? Think and read about advancements in your industry and invest in innovation to secure your future. How is the world changing, and how can your business capitalize on the new environment? How can it thrive in the evolving context? Taking advantage of a growing and changing market can be the key to achieving sustainable growth. If you are determined to be a game-changer, focus on innovation within your business. With the fire of your motivation inside you, you can chart a path to new levels of success.
These three directions are yours to look at as head of your organization.
Altogether, you need to be thinking for your business’s future: saving for its “college education” as you watch its first teetering steps. Remember in moments of frustration how glorious it is to be the caretaker of such a constantly changing, challenging, and lively piece of work as a business. Keep up with the latest in business parenting and see what breakthrough ideas you can come up with to help your company thrive in a changing world. Lastly, think outside your business by maintaining healthy relationships with others: vendors, and perhaps most of all, customers.
Raising your company to adulthood can be the most rewarding challenge of your life. Embrace it, and enjoy every minute, never forgetting the arc of the whole story.
Ed McLaughlin is currently co-writing the book “The Purpose Is Profit: Secrets of a Successful Entrepreneur from Startup to Exit” with Wyn Lydecker and Paul McLaughlin.
Copyright © 2014 by Ed McLaughlin All rights reserved.