The amazing photo on this week’s blog is of Norwegian extreme artist Eskil Ronningsbakken. Why am I using it? Because I heard a saying about startup entrepreneurs a couple of weeks back that I liked. It was “if you’re not at the edge, you’re taking up too much room”. Other sayings I like on this topic are “If the wheels don’t come off, you’re not travelling fast enough” and also “If you can’t code and you can’t sell, get the f*** out of my way”.
I think a lot about why it is some people can cope with running small businesses and others can’t. In my view it comes down to 3 things.
The first is a stronger ability than most people to be able to compartmentalise stuff. What I mean by this is that you can carry on doing what you need to do at that point in time (be it get up on the podium and pitch to investors, focus on getting a tender response finished or complete a sales call) when something else distracting is going on – either in your business or in your personal life. Being able to compartmentalise in this way also allows you to block out other bad stuff that you would otherwise worry about. When bad things happen, as they do from time to time, I think about them and if there’s nothing I can do right this minute or today to address them, then I put them out of my mind until the time is right to deal with them. I don’t lie awake at night worrying. I put them out of my mind in a locked box that I open when the time is right. If I couldn’t do that, I’d never get anything done. I’d be paralysed with fear.
The second is resilience. I’ve seen a couple of entrepreneur buddies in the last couple of weeks who have really been under the cosh recently. If they weren’t so resilient they’d have given up, one in particular many times over. What is resilience? The official definition of resilience is an ability to bounce back into shape. In a work setting it means being able to continue functioning & making sensible decisions in the face of adversity – which could be a one off event (like a disaster) or longer term (like always being tired from working long hours consistently). Resilience is what you need when the 10th bank you’ve spoken to that week won’t lend you money & you don’t have enough to cover payroll right now, it’s the quality that makes you get up at 3am to go & catch a plane even though you only got home at 10pm last night, it’s what makes you sit down & start working on another response to tender when you’ve just had a rejection letter in from something you thought was a dead cert. In summary, this is the quality that keeps you going & you either have it or you don’t – so be honest with yourself.
Last on my list is the big one. I used to think the big one was resilience but I’ve changed my mind. It’s also the one out of the 3 that I think you can learn or at least improve. It’s the ability or willingness to make quick decisions. I make a lot of decisions in my job. Some days it’s all I do. But there’s more. It’s the ability to make decisions when you have no or certainly less than perfect information and it’s the ability to make a decision and move on. If everyone worked in an environment where they were encouraged or allowed to do this, the world would be a much better place.
I’m sure everyone has their own views about what should be in this top 3. I look forward to your comments or questions as always.