Thanks to portrayals in both film and fiction, the public thinks of entrepreneurs as bold and dashing men and women who combine a visionary view of the world with boundless energy and a keen sense of unfulfilled marketplace needs.
Think Elon Musk or Richard Branson.
And while the influence of game-changers like Musk and Branson can’t be ignored, they represent the very top of the entrepreneurial marketplace, just like Tom Brady is arguably the best QB ever, Beyonce is an elite singer/performer and Meryl Streep is recognized among the finest actresses ever.
So while the classic stereotype of an entrepreneur is one who is always running, pushing the envelope and taking risks, you should know that at every stage of their journey, entrepreneurs have quiet fears or dilemmas that are holding them back. Sometimes these dilemmas can end up wrecking a business, but more often than not there is a solution.
Let’s look at five of the more common dilemmas.
1. Motivation paralysis, which is a fancy way of saying you’re not sure what to do next. Entrepreneurs always want to be moving forward, but that can be difficult if you don’t know what to do next. Of course, nobody has all the answers all the time, so this may be the opportunity to consult with a business coach, members of a Vistage group or anyone who can provide a fresh perspective on what you’re doing. Some entrepreneurs may feel ashamed to seek help, but this is misguided; nobody has the answers all of the time.
2. Being ground up. This means you don’t have time to think about your next move because you’re so busy in the daily grind: You’re working in your business instead of on your business. In reality, this status is inevitable at some point, particularly early in the life-cycle of your business. This occurs when you’re working long hours, are understaffed and are coping with common issues such as under-funding and limited professional network connections. Entrepreneurs often are loathe to delegate tasks, especially early on, but that’s what you might need to do to free up some time for future planning.
3. Lack of cash. In almost every scenario, it requires cash to grow a business. And this is where a significant chunk of all entrepreneurs get bogged down. While the perception is that entrepreneurs are riverboat gamblers who don’t mind taking on debt for a chance to pay back that debt (and earn much more), the reality is that plenty of entrepreneurs don’t have the stomach (or think they don’t have the stomach) to assume more debt. That problem often is exacerbated by a lack of knowledge. Many entrepreneurs are unaware that there are numerous financial options open to them, depending upon how much risk they’re willing to assume.
4. C-level tension. Just because the partners are all family members, close friends or trusted business professionals, it doesn't mean you won’t clash when it comes to the future direction of your business, or even day-to-day operations. Perhaps you are the partner most interested in rapid growth and the others are more conservative - or vice versa. Or perhaps there are as many different opinions about what to do as there are partners. In any case, you’re going to have to reach some kind of consensus to be able to move forward.
5. Why mess with a good thing? Things are going well and, rather than stress out about making the business even better, why not enjoy things as they are? There’s something to be said for the “don’t worry, be happy” philosophy - and there are brief times when it makes sense to leave things be. But most of the time you need to be thinking a couple steps ahead. The cliché “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards” makes a lot of sense. The status quo might temporarily leave you stress free, but that will change the first time problems emerge - and it’s guaranteed that they will emerge. It’s much easier to work from a position of strength than to jump in and tackle emerging problems, so thinking about the next step must remain top of mind.
Which ones of these dilemmas best describes you? Note that your particular situation may include two or more of these dilemmas or some kind of amalgam of them.
Whatever the case may be, dilemmas are something that should not be ignored: There’s no such thing as benign neglect, and problems will never go away on their own. You take pride in your business and must be laser-focused in making it work.
Granted, there are issues that end up being death blows for some businesses, but the five dilemmas described above shouldn’t be among them. They’re real problems, but hardly insurmountable.
Just remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness; to the contrary, it’s a sign of strength. It takes a strong person to admit they need help and tackling a bit of adversity is a way to make than strong person even stronger.