How much do you have to grow in a year? How many clients do you have relative to your competitors? What are your rivals doing that you're not? Does it matter?
All of these are valid questions, depending on your business goals. If your primary goal is to become the next major corporation within the next ten years in your industry, then these metrics are critical. If your main business objective is of a more personal nature, then, as is often the case in business, "it depends".
Corporate, the reason you ran
The corporate world has long been seen as the place to be. Offering a stable job, stable salary, reputable experience, cheap benefits, clear career paths and promotion opportunities, why on earth would anyone choose to take on the risk and responsibility of entrepreneurship?
Yes, yes, your average work week is actually 60 hours, with something like 30% going into stroking egos and impressing people, 20% getting through necessary bureaucracy, 15% networking at the office and only 30% left for meaningful productivity on the work you love, but it’s so worth it.
You must have heard these statements in their myriad forms during your corporate years:
‘The responsible contributors in our society know that they must pay their dues early to reap the rewards later; you work hard now to afford and enjoy a great retirement’. ‘Work-life balance and early retirement are for dreamers and lazy people’. ‘You can sleep when you die!’ And other fables of the corporate world.
My wakeup call came when, after at least 10 years, a colleague in his mid-40’s got a heart attack in October and the company told him that if he couldn’t be back by Christmas, he’d be fired – not ‘laid off’, not ‘given a leave of absence at 80% salary’, FIRED! So yes, you can sleep when you die. As you sleep, they’ll send a bouquet and quickly find your replacement. Let’s not discuss the many wrecked marriages that lie in the wake of corporate growth.
No one can deny that the corporate world has a lot to offer – project diversity, cross-functional team experience, priceless lessons in conflict management and a network that can expand “faster than the known universe”, but it depends on the price you’re willing to pay.
One sacrifice of leaving the corporate world is that, while these perks are also available in the Entrepreneurial Realm, only the corporate world offers them on such a large scale. Really??
Entrepreneurship, what hooked you
Perhaps this was true in the days before the Internet – when blogs, tweets, followers and the ability of information to travel at the speed of light were science fiction concepts – and entrepreneurship involved literally “burning the candle at both ends”, but it’s not so today.
We have opted to be entrepreneurs for a million reasons – perpetual autonomy, independence, the recession, the baby and then the second baby, the parents got sick, the industry disappeared, the travelling spouse – and these are not the half of it.
For me and others, make no mistake, it involves hard work, self-discipline and understanding that the client is the boss. BUT if I work late, it involves waking up when I want, choosing the projects my company takes on, working with and supporting clients who have integrity, seeing the value of my work right away and managing challenges around work and not office politics.
What’s your “day in the life of” story? You alone can answer these questions – and the answers don’t have to be attractive to anyone but YOU. You’re not writing a book to make people love you; you’re assessing why you’re spending your ONE life doing what you’re doing.
Are you happy now?
Regardless of what brought you down this road, you must be true to yourself – are you happy? Does entrepreneurship let you fulfill your passions? OR Does the opportunity cost upset you?
“YES, I’m happy!” If you’re happy, that’s great. Things may or may not be perfect, but you know that you’re the captain of your ship and that each obstacle you’ve faced has taught you great lessons and empowered you. You get to develop and grow at your pace, doing what you love and making the critical decisions that will affect you and your business.
“NO, I’m not happy?” If you’re not happy, then start taking steps toward finding out what will make you happy. If you already know what will make you happy, but you’re afraid or you fear it’s “ridiculous”, “irresponsible” or “people will think…(boo)”, then you need to face it.
Examine carefully if it’s working for you, the work you’re doing or who you’re doing it with that doesn’t work. Every entrepreneur has a different reason for why s/he loves what s/he does. Their views need not sway you. Loving it for different reasons is quite alright, but if you love corporate, THAT’S OKAY!
Be true to yourself. Make your decisions for your OWN reasons, not the world’s. LIFE’S SHORT!
So, what are you doing?
If you said YES, that you’re happy, then stay happy. Keep your operations calibrated to ensure you get what YOU want out of your business. Your calibration codes would include YOUR:
Goals | Passions | Energy | Resources | Loved Ones
What are you doing?! “Do not grow faster than you’re ready to” because the competition is growing, unless your calibration codes demand it. Otherwise, you might burn out before you make your first million. Do not put yourself out their until you’re ready to because someone tells you “you’re behind the times” – Social Media is a useful tool, but it can create a big mess of your company’s brand if you’re not ready for it.
Your reasons, back to Eden
You left the corporate world – the place where your value is determined by the impression people get of your performance and ideas, and rarely on the work you actually got the time to do amidst the walking on eggshells – don’t create your own world of tight ropes for all the wrong reasons.
In the end, you MUST be true to yourself. You have one life to live; don’t let someone else live it for you.