By Ryan Kh
When you look at the statistics of business failures, they can be quite sobering. Over 50% of companies fail within four years. A lot of this has to do with the attitude of the entrepreneurs.
I am going to tell you a tale of two entrepreneurs. Both of them failed for very different reasons.
My childhood friend always aspired to be the next Bill Gates. From the time he was 11 years old, he spoke endlessly about starting the next major tech company. He spent years reading books on business and business magazine such as Entrepreneur.
Sadly, he never took action. He is now 36 years old and working at a programming job that he hates. He still has a slight entrepreneurial flame, but it flickers less every year. Over the years, I have asked him what he will do to bring his dream to life.
I have brought up a number of ideas that he may want to try, such as starting by watching his own e-commerce site. His response was always something along the lines of: “I don’t know. I am worried that if I try something like that it wouldn’t work.”
He is clearly scared that his dream won’t work if he actually tries it. He either believes that his ideas aren’t good enough or he doesn’t have the skills to put them to practice. He will never admit that, but he has already given himself the failure by living as a dreamer.
Another technology professional I spoke with faces the opposite problem. He never had a problem working hard. He built a successful biotech company on the West Coast and was on track to make over a quarter of a million dollars one year. So it came as a shock to his employees, spouse and colleagues when he announced that he would be selling his shares and taking a 9-to-5 job.
What drove him to give up on a thriving business? The depressing reality is that he lost his passion for it. He worked 70 hours a week and had a little time for his family. His business was no longer a dream, but an obsession that dominated every facet of his life.
What can entrepreneurs learn from these two stories?
Thomas Edison once said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. He clearly made this point to illustrate that dreaming big won’t lead to success.
His advice probably made a lot of sense at the time. However, too many entrepreneurs have taken it to the extreme. They pride themselves on working insane hours, which leads to burnout. Once they become too overwhelmed, their passion for their business quickly fades.
Entrepreneurs need to re-align themselves by balancing hard work with dreaming about their future success. While dreaming won’t turn you into the next tech billionaire, it is necessary to inspire you to take action.
Here are some tips to find this balance.
Compartmentalize Your Projects
If you want to cross the threshold from being busy to being productive, Jennie Ripps, founder of Owl’s Brew states that you need to learn to compartmentalize your projects.
“I try to compartmentalize my days. For instance, I’ll spend an hour before the workday sending out emails, and I won’t look at incoming emails until everything is completely outbound. I find that I focus more when I do only one thing and not a million things; it cuts down on the noise.”
Find a Business that Are Both Passionate and Good at
You need to be passionate about your entrepreneurial venture to make progress at it. You won’t be able to wake up at 6 AM every day if you don’t like it. You also need to be good at it to stay motivated. Otherwise, you will be discouraged by your lack of progress and will need to find a new way to pay your bills.
Steven Sugarman, founder of Banc of California states that this has played a major role in his success. He had to look at multiple career paths before settling on one that he would thrive in, both emotionally and financially. “I looked at consulting, law, investment banking. I think I gravitated toward problem-solving.”
Create Tasks Lists and Organize by Priority
Getting sidetracked with projects ruins things for many entrepreneurs. Daniella Yacobovsky, founder of BaubleBar states that keeping to-do lists is crucial for every entrepreneur.
“I am pretty OCD about creating to-do lists, and I am constantly prioritizing what I put at the top of the list. I also think it’s important to break your workload down into digestible nuggets. I break things down into things that feel doable within a span of one to two hours. That helps me methodically sort through everything that’s on my plate,” Yacobovsky told Entrepreneur.
Take Time to Rekindle Your Love for Your Business
You should treat your business like celebrating the anniversary of a romantic relationship. Don’t take it for granted. Look back every once in a while and remind yourself what you wanted to accomplish. See what inspired you to start your company. Did you start your company to fix a problem that plagued the world? Did you always love your chosen craft?
Reminding yourself what inspired you to start a business can help keep your passion alive.
Know When to Make an Exit
Sometimes, the passion for your business is no longer there. Your views and priorities have changed, so you may want to move on to something else. In other cases, you may have a hard time making a business work. Rather than chasing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you may want to find something you are better suited for.
Failures can leave you jaded, but they can also inspire you to do better the next time around. Making smart decisions about leaving a failing company plays a big role in this.
Ryan Kh is an experienced blogger, digital content & social marketer. Founder of Catalyst For Business and contributor to search giants like Yahoo Finance, MSN. He is passionate about covering topics like big data, business intelligence, startups & entrepreneurship. Follow him on twitter: @ryankhgb.