In the beginning there will be very little difference between you and your business.
You'll think about it all the time. Your finances and your schedule will be interconnected. You'll obsess over details. Business results will affect your mood. It will become part of your identity. Therefore it makes good business sense to work on you. The better you are, the better your business will be.
Entrepreneurship is very similar to athletics. Your performance on race day is tied to every aspect of your life. So, to become an Olympic-calibre business owner, you need to perform these five steps:
1. Exercise the body
They say entrepreneurship is a marathon and not a sprint. Endurance counts.
You won't be much of a CEO if you are dead. Burning out before you finish the race is not an option.
Invest in physical activity to keep your body and mind in shape. Schedule at least three workouts each week—and stick to it. Hit the gym, ride your bike, take a walk, splash in a pool or chase your kids around a park.
Read: How A Workaholic Found Balance. For one entrepreneur, spiritual growth lead to $20 million in sales growth.
Saying "I don't have the time" is a lame excuse. The world can wait for an hour while you treat your body to some fun. You'll be amazed how your business appointments and obligations magically fit around your unmovable exercise regimen. You'll return refreshed and focused, and ready to continue your business journey.
2. Exercise the mind
Olympic athletes pay just as much attention to mental conditioning as they do to physical training. They understand that both their minds and their bodies must be trained to perform well. Entrepreneurs are no different.
As a business owner, you'll be called upon to perform a wider range of specialized tasks than required by any previous job. Your mind will be challenged to quickly learn about things like business financing, marketing, selling, production, operations, human resources management and taxation. You'll need to learn those things while you deal with day-to-day anxieties concerning payroll, customer orders, cranky investors and budget shortfalls.
Keep your head about you. Work at preparing your mind for the challenges entrepreneurship will present daily. Read helpful business books, enrol in courses or join a peer mentoring group. Schedule a vacation. Set realistic working hours. Go home and play with your kids.
3. Positive associations only
Remember those bad neighbourhood kids your mother warned you about? The ones who smoked cigarettes in the school parking lot, drank liquor stolen from their parents and scoffed at their school studies.
They were the cool kids and we wanted to hang out with them, despite their bad influence.
Many of us maintain these kinds of negative relationships well into our adult lives. It could be someone who throws cold water on our aspirations, doubts our abilities or is perpetually negative about our ideas. Out of a desire to maintain a personal history, we sometimes continue to associate with people who outright diminish our spirit, our mood and our motivation.
Recognize that you are the company you keep. If you plan to be a winner in business, associate with a better group of people while minimizing (where possible) your association with the negative ones.
4. Focus your energy
Entrepreneurs have a lot of ideas. We constantly think up new things to do and embrace exciting new initiatives. But this positive attribute can also be a negative one.
The most successful people know how to focus. They make a plan, set objectives, secure resources, put their head down and go for it.
Entrepreneurs get easily distracted by shiny opportunities. I speak from experience—I once owned and operated five small companies at the same time. Because my attention and energy were so diluted, none of those businesses performed well.
Pick a business or project and stick with it. For many well-intentioned and ambitious entrepreneurs, diversification is really just another word for distraction.
5. Work on it, not in it
Whether it's a day each week or a day each quarter, be sure to schedule some time to work on your business rather than in it. Building, not doing, is the key to business success.
For example, many entrepreneurs waste countless hours entering their invoices and receipts into accounting software. Hire a bookkeeper to do that for you. Delegate or automate non-essential tasks to inexpensive labour. This frees up your time to undertake these business-building activities:
- Develop or improve the systems powering your business;
- Nurture key relationships or alliances to generate income;
- Promote your business within the marketplace;
- Meet with professional advisors.
Read: Strategic Time Management for eight easy ways to better manage your time.
Becoming a high-performing entrepreneur takes time. Nobody's perfect. Start with a commitment to improve your performance in any of these key areas. Pick something you'd like to try and just do it—like joining a peer mentoring group. Schedule in the rest of these improvement challenges over time. Don't overwhelm yourself by taking on too much change at once. Practice pace—sprinters rarely complete marathons.
Roger Pierce is the founder of NewcomerStartup.com, co-author of the book Thriving Solo: How to Grow a Successful Business and one of Canada's top experts on starting up. Roger helps others get into business by sharing what he's learned from launching 11 companies.
Stay tuned for the final instalment of Roger's startup series on creating a vision to dr
ove your business.
Build a better startup and read the rest of Roger's 10-part series.