This vicious curse can take you down if you let it. Here's how to beat it.
Anyone who has started and ran a business knows the entrepreneur's curse.
The frustrating dichotomy between never having enough spare time outside the business and the frightening reality when you do.
When I started Wild Creations a number of years ago, I lived the curse firsthand. As someone who had just come from the corporate world and was a master at leveraging vacation days with three-day weekends and long holidays, the entrepreneurial transition was challenging. I had lofty aspirations of "being my own boss" and having more freedom and independence.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Like any new business, it consumed every minute of spare time and every ounce of energy I had. When I actually took a few hours off, for example on a weekend to indulge in a simple college football game, the enthusiasm and pleasure of doing so were always dampened by the heavy guilt I felt for not working at the business. If we were slow enough to take time off, should I not be focused on trying to get more business?
It was a vicious cycle.
After a while, however, I learned to effectively deal with the "curse" and in fact became quite adept at avoiding it altogether. Here are a few tips on how other entrepreneurs can do the same:
1. Find a Partner
Many entrepreneurs, by nature, are soloist. While completely understandable, I personally find it to be less optimal. I was fortunate to find a trustworthy partner and co-founder at Wild Creations. We had met and worked together on a USAID project overseas and discovered that we shared similar entrepreneurial aspirations. It took a number of months to establish the rapport and the trust we needed, but the patience paid off. When one of us needed time off, we could always feel confident knowing that the business was in capable hands.
2. Hire Better People
If you cannot find a good partner or opt to go at business yourself, make sure to find better employees. And by "better" I mean better than you. Let's face it, the most capable and trusted person you are going to find to run your business is you, so do not compromise on selecting employees that you will trust to do it for you.
3. Learn to Delegate
For many entrepreneurs (present company included), giving up control of any aspect of the business is difficult. I often compare my business to my children. As nice as it might be, turning over the responsibility to watch and protect them is not easy. It is important to understand, however, that you cannot do or control everything. Indeed, there are individuals much better qualified for particular tasks. Understand your strengths and the priorities of the business and trust the rest to your team.
4. Find Your Happy Place
Like any parent, you will always worry about the business, regardless of the team you have in place. For me, I find it useful to have a "happy place" where I can go and tune out the business and outside noise. The time allows me to recalibrate, mentally, so I make certain I am focused on what is important. Whether it is a beach, a reading bench, a set of headphones, or a state of Zen, find your place and be willing to allow yourself the indulgence of "letting go," even if for a short time.
5. Do What You Love
It may be a cliché, but it is spot on. Most entrepreneurs choose to start businesses to pursue a personal passion or interest but quickly get lost in the rigor, stress and anxiety of running the business. When you start to get frustrated, remember why you started your business and reclaim the enthusiasm you had before. Working tens of hours in the business then feel a little less like a chore.
The entrepreneurs curse is, for the most part, mental. It requires the ability to turn the business "on" and "off" at a moment's notice, which is completely achievable but takes practice ... lots of practice. In the end, you may not find more spare time to enjoy, but you will most certainly learn to enjoy the spare time you have.