To be an entrepreneur, small business person, hustler, etc, is to sacrifice the stability of a regular job and place all of your belief in your own ability to sell. You are either selling something, yourself, or your skills. You have to rely on people to look for what it is you are hoping to reach people with. Odds are if you are just starting out your enthusiasm is really high and the defeats are not bothering you at all. You take an L, and instead of allowing it to set you back, you keep moving forward because, ‘hey, I’m new to this.’
What happens when you aren’t new to it anymore? What happens when what you’ve given so much time to is not working out and it’s time to let it go? What is the next step? What happens when you’ve been at it for a while, but the small things are actually hindering your happiness overall. The problems you are solving aren’t as fulfilling as they were. You don’t get any satisfaction in the repetitiveness involved in managing your business. You are waking up looking for an exit strategy…
What happens when the entrepreneurial spirit is beaten down and finding it hard to recover?
I think I’m at this point. I reached this point as a writer years ago. I wrote 5 books between 1995 and 2004. I thought, and still think those books are very good. I did the traditional publishing thing and got an agent. I also did the self publishing thing and neither one panned out. I saw writers who self published at the exact time turn their writing into careers while my books sat and I began to question if I was a good writer at all. I left it behind. Was it the right thing to do? I don’t know. I just know that if one person reads what you’ve done, and they find it good, it can create a movement. The people who read my books didn’t pass it on, or rave about them or tell others they had to read them, although they all thought the books were very good. The books never popped. I lost my enthusiasm over the past nine years and now I’m 19 years in as a writer and I’m still getting great reviews, but the books still haven’t taken off. My entrepreneurial spirit in regard to this is no longer aflame. The only writing I do now is related to business or blogging. I guess that isn’t bad, but it’s not a career. How do you deal with this?
I’m now at this point with my shoe company ARCH. I’ve watched other designers and people get scholarships and investments and they’ve never produced a shoe or sold anything. They’ve never really given to their business monetarily, as well as financially and spiritually. Which is what I think it takes to make it. You have to have the trifecta to be successful right?
Wrong. I’m beginning to realize that if you are building your own brand, you have to have some sort of celebrity or you have to be a person who has some money, with you. The person who has a large enough financial backer has the time to figure out the problems they encounter. The person who has celebrity has a built in audience and they simply have to have a decent idea.
I think the biggest thing that will help any person deciding to become an entrepreneur is that you will find a point where you question your entire being. You will question whether anyone cares about what you are doing. You will question whether your race is a factor in why things aren’t going your way. You will question if you are giving enough time and energy to your venture. You will question why their ‘thing’ worked and yours did not. You will question everything and you will want to give up. The question is should you give up?
How you approach this moment is everything. If you are approaching it from an emotional view, you’ve already failed. If you approach from strictly a business vantage, you have already failed. Approaching the question of giving up/in, is a very difficult recipe to attack. It’s a blend of emotional attachment and financial clarity. It is inherently emotional because the thing that you have created and given birth too is your baby. You tend to be overly critical about it, and at the same time completely defensive about it. You are afraid to really put it out there for fear of rejection, but you also know that not putting it out there accomplishes nothing. You want it to do well and you yearn for success, but you don’t know how to make that success happen and it leads to confusion. So you end up being an emotional wreck while trying to make the vision concrete in order to make money.
The financial aspect is just as draining especially when you are starting at a disadvantage. A lot of times you hear that money can’t solve a problem. That is the biggest BS in the world. Money solves problems. Money allows you to make attempts and try different tactics. Can you burn through money like a fire in a wheat field? Yes, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need it to be successful. However, simply analyzing your losses as a reason for calling it quits is failing because sometimes it’s not the loss of money that prevents you from moving forward.
How do you combine these two aspects in approaching how to handle the difficulties of entrepreneurship?
While I do not have the answers (right Kanye?), I do feel that I am a solid resource to speak to about what to do next. Instead of calling it quits with ARCH, I took a step back and analyzed why I haven’t been able to generate enough money for ARCH to sustain itself. I wrote a series of reports with metrics that looked at the numbers for the business. I ignored people who said they could help me out. Not because I think I’m smarter, but because most of the people couldn’t show me their business reports and success. I didn’t have the time or patience to listen to hypotheses about why a shoe company didn’t succeed. By blocking out all of the comments and isolating myself, I found a peace. I could really think clearly. I came to one conclusion: I never had the money needed to give myself the time to build the brand and create lines of distribution. I found my problem, which allowed me to find my solution.
In other words, I got rid of the noise and found my problem and began to solve the problem. If you are at the crossroads and you haven’t removed the noise in your life and found your problem, then stop trying to start a business. How can you take on the successful businesses in your path when there are whispers of crazy, foolish, and why in your ear? How can you enter a market that is competitive without any real awareness of what you bring to the table? How can you attempt the “impossible” with a few dollars if you don’t know what those dollars are going to be used for? CLEAR THE NOISE, FIND YOUR PROBLEM and SOLVE THE PROBLEM. I promise if you take your time and analyze why your goals aren’t being met, you can reignite the passion needed to take another step forward.
Just my two cents