In 2012, I got accepted into Belmont’s MBA program. I thought I’d be handed a list of steps for how to start my own business. And you know what I learned? That doesn’t exist. Instead, I learned how to navigate the complex world of perception, and I’m so grateful for that. Because until you go out there and learn what works for you, you’ll always be wishing you had someone else’s dream.
One framework I learned in school is Porter’s Five Forces: threat of new entrants, threat of substitutes, bargaining power of customers, bargaining power of suppliers and intensity of competition. I use this all the time in thinking about how the world around me affects my business on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. But nobody taught me about the forces within the entrepreneur.
Despite the way people think success stories go (always up!), true successes happen after and through a series of failures and sometimes crushing blows and plenty of the word “no” (sometimes “no thank you” if they like you). Putting ideas into action is hard! Some days, it takes digging in your proverbial nails and clawing your way to where you want to be. And let's be honest, sometimes even that doesn’t work. So how do you keep moving forward?
I put together a list called Lyndi’s Five Forces. These are the five biggest elements that stand in the way of making things happen, and how I overcome them.
LYNDI’S FIVE FORCES
1. Accountability. Going out on your own is difficult. You’re alone a lot, there’s no one else to do the work for you, and you’re alone a lot. Did I say that already? You have to find a way to motivate yourself to do the things you don’t want to do. Sometimes you lose steam, and without a partner to push you or to pick up your slack, nothing gets done. The less glamorous tasks (writing a business plan, setting up an accounting system) can be overwhelming, and a first inclination might be to open up Facebook and procrastinate. But remember that every time you take that hard step and accomplish something nobody else wants to do, you learn something new about owning a business. You're one step closer to your dream, and that is so much more gratifying than the guilty feeling you get after a Netflix marathon. To ignore the overwhelmed voice in my head, I try to do the most difficult task first. This ensures that my list only gets easier throughout the day. Dale Partridge, Founder of Startup Camp, has a great list of morning habits that help him accomplish his goals each day.
2. Indecision. In every instance of starting a business, it’s up to you. You have to make choices about how to move forward. There is no boss to make that choice for you, because suddenly you are the boss (which is so great, by the way!). And to be frank, there's almost no "right" answer to business. You know why? Because it always depends on the situation, the industry, and the many other factors that make you and your business unique. The beauty of choice is that most decisions are not irreversible; so don’t exhaust your research. I try to live by the concept of “trust your gut, but get a second opinion.” Not a third or fourth, though. If you've ever met me, you know I love Malcolm Gladwell. And I highly recommend reading Blink and considering that sometimes quick decision-making makes for the best outcomes.
"We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it...We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible an depending as much time as possible in deliberation. We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world." - M. Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking
3. Burn Out. There are days when I am in the kitchen ALL day and when I get home, I would rather jump off a building than roll out another pie crust. And I’m afraid of heights. But that’s ok. Burning out doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough. And it doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for it. You’re going to struggle when you immerse yourself in your business, even if you love it. Especially if you love it. Because you are not a robot. So make time to mix up your schedule. I make it a point to grab coffee with friends mid-day, work out as much as possible (endorphins, y’all!), and sit down to do nothing every now and again. That one is the hardest, but also the most effective. This article from Forbes helped me understand some of those quieter warning signs of when you’re approaching burn out.
4. Not Asking for Help. If I had a penny for every time I said “no thank you,” I’d have a storefront by now. Asking for help makes you stronger! If you are authentically chasing your dream, there is someone out there that loves you or loves what you stand for (or both) and is so willing to be part of that. It’s incredible how powerful the words “yes” and “thank you” can be in getting shit done. The best part is that the more you allow help into your life, the more people stand behind you. It makes you an influential leader, it fosters collaboration, and it shows you how to leverage others’ strengths to improve the overall product or service. The best way I know how to overcome asking for help is to always offer my help to others. Genuinely offering up my time or expertise to people who need it helps me realize how good it feels and reminds me that others want to offer the same to me. This article resonated with me on the psychology behind why it’s so difficult to accept help, and why leadership requires support.
5. Judgment. This is the most personal of them all. Especially when you are first beginning to formulate and tell your story. How are you supposed to share your biggest dreams and goals with the world without being judged? What if they laugh? What if you fail? Why is this suddenly so scary? Putting yourself out there is terrifying, because chasing your dream means asking for the world to embrace you. Whether that world is your team, your family or your community. Surround yourself with people who care enough to push you and dare you to be yourself. I rely heavily on embracing and being embraced by people who are smart, honest and motivating. I have also learned a great deal from everyone’s favorite storyteller: Brene Brown. She has been a force in my world. Her words set me straight and made me realize that I am enough. This article is one of many great reads. I highly suggest reading her books (Daring Greatly & Rising Strong) to ground yourself and realize you are incredibly brave for putting yourself out there.
Those are my toughest and meanest forces. What are your five forces? How do you overcome them?