Most of us did not grow up in entrepreneurial families. And even if you did, going to school trained you in the opposite direction. I say that as a former educator and the member of an academic family—so I know whereof I speak! Becoming an entrepreneur requires a different way of thinking, acting and being in the world than that of a worker or student.
Now I am all for learning, and I am still a perpetual student in many ways. So I want to offer you a few keys that can make all the difference in your life and your business. I developed these after almost 15 years of being out on my own, creating different businesses in different fields, working with clients all along the way, and really learning the qualities it takes to be an entrepreneur. The danger of not making this transition could be the cost of your business.
(I) Entrepreneurial Time
You were trained into “clock time” when you were in school. That is also known as linear time, and it leads to trading time for dollars. You were told when to be there, when to sit down, get up, listen, write, go to the bathroom, eat, and play outside. You had to get up in the morning, often to an alarm, eat breakfast maybe before you were ready, and get to school on time. Clock time was introduced with factory life, and the public school system came into being roughly around the same time. Both trained people into experiencing life and themselves in a particular, linear way that supports you in being a worker rather than an entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur you have to learn to hold and use time differently. There is no longer a one-to-one relationship between hours and money made. Usually when you start and are growing a business, you will work MANY hours for which you will not make any money. You will need to invest your time, energy, vision, and yes your money, up front, and sometimes for quite awhile, before you start experiencing profit. You may make money, but for a time, you may still be “in the red” because your expenses will be out stripping your ability to create income quickly. I want to emphasize that this is NORMAL. Nothing is wrong. In fact, being able to invest heavily—with a plan and coaching to guide you—is your best bet for making things happen quickly.
After all, most “start-up” companies jockey for funding from banks and venture capitalists to get their businesses off the ground. They know they have to invest in order to get started—and that profits are “delayed.” But for most of us as sole proprietors in service professions, we don’t think in a business-like way. “I’m a teacher,” or “I’m a healer,” you say, it’s different for me.
Well, yes, and no. You are different from a start up, but you still need to delay your gratification for the true rewards that having a business can bring you. As a service provider, you can start creating money right away, and that’s something I love to teach my clients. AND you need to understand that you have to invest your time, money and energy up front to get those rewards.
This may sound as if it goes against sage advice for being financially responsible. Generally that advice is coming from people who are speaking to consumers who are workers rather than entrepreneurs. (In fact Alexis Neely has a great blog post about this.)
It takes money to be an entrepreneur. Personally I have always used other people’s money to finance different businesses I’ve created, mostly on credit cards. And I have always paid them off over time with the proceeds from those businesses, which is why I have excellent credit now. You have to be able to see down the road—to envision what you are creating, and have the chutzpa to invest on faith and belief in yourself. That takes understanding entrepreneurial time.
The cool thing is that eventually, if you stay the course and really build it, the returns will outstrip the hours you are putting in. Your rates will be much higher, you will create residual and multiple streams of income, and you can be making money when you sleep or when you are on vacation. And that makes it all worth it in the end.
Being an entrepreneur takes creativity, innovation, and the ability to embrace uncertainty and an open-ended unknown result. That goes against most of what you were taught in school, where you were told what was important, what to pay attention to, and what result you were supposed to get based on the curriculum you were learning. As an entrepreneur you need to embrace the mystery—because the whole endeavor is an adventure with an uncertain outcome.
“Get complete with failure.” I heard Mathew Terces, the co-founder of the wildly popular Café Gratitude Restaurants in California, say this in an interview. Café Gratitude is a vegan, mostly raw restaurant where diners are invited to play a game called the Abounding River, which is full of affirmations and metaphysical perceptions. Mathew said that he and his wife had to “get complete with failure” before they started because who the heck knew if they could make it work. It is pretty out-there, even for California ;D. And it did work—in a really big way, creating a chain of five restaurants that became a $10+ million business. It’s a marvelous example of creativity, innovation, and the ability to embrace the mystery, knowing that in fact it could fail.
And you know what—they recently also closed down a number of their sites because of legal issues. They still have two Café Gratitudes, and two other restaurants—so they are far from out of business. But still, the lesson of getting complete with “failure” is an important one. Because you need to be in it for the experience, not just for the outcome. Then you have a new, more potent definition of success.
(III) Be Bold
Be willing to be bold. Actually make a habit of it. Do not ask permission. Do not apologize. (I mean apologize if you do something out of integrity, but do not apologize for your perspective.) Take a stand. Speak up. Share your perspective.
And go inside for answers. Yes, study, get coaching, continue to learn. But learn to trust yourself. Go inside yourself because you are the expert on your own life—and you need to be the expert on your business, too. Too many people approach their businesses like they were still in school—looking for the right model, the right teacher, the right answer, the magic bullet. And then they get really frustrated because they can’t find it. They don’t realize that they habitually give their power away by looking outside for answers, affirmation, and approval.
So be bold, go inside for answers. And part of that is being willing to make mistakes. Because if you are afraid of making mistakes, or try to avoid them too much, you will not find it easy to be bold. How could you? You’d be holding yourself back all the time with some kind of internal dialogue about “ooooo watch out for this or that.” Who cares?? When you are strong, on purpose, and using your energy toward creating what gets you fired up, who cares if you make a mistake? I can assure you that you will. If you are doing anything worth doing, you will make mistakes because you are embracing the mystery, you are being creative, innovative, and you are making a major contribution. That is the power and promise of being an entrepreneur!