My daughter is headed off to college this Fall. As part of this transition, I have taken on a renovation project of our house of 12 years. This process has reminded me of key lessons learned along the entrepreneurial journey, such as:
Lesson 1: Everything Takes Longer Than You Expect
I thought it would take 4 weeks to complete the renovation - it took closer to 8. I thought we would be in a temporary apartment for about 3 months - it looks like it will be closer to 4.
Every business owner I work with thinks their project will take less time than it actually does. This occurs so often, that owners are often reluctant to set firm dates. But dates drive progress, so even if you think it's aggressive, set a date and push your team to make it.
Time slips by more quickly than you notice without measuring your goal to your actual progress.
Lesson 2: It Will Cost More Than You Budgeted
I didn't believe others when they told me the renovation would cost more than budgeted. Unexpected problems along the way made the actual spend at least 50% more than the budget.
As I have looked at potential rental property to live in while the renovation is completed, I am amazed at the number of them that are "for rent" in what appears to be "mid renovation" condition. It's obvious the owner ran out of money and is now trying to rent the house until they can pick the project up again.
Getting your business off the ground--or deciding to take it to the next level--will cost more than you think. Your decision to spend needs to be grounded in whether or not the potential payoff is greater than if you keep your day job or business at the size it is at today. Make sure you have enough runway to see the project to the end.
Lesson 3: You Need Less Than You Think
Almost everything I own is currently in two offsite storage containers and I am surprised that I don't miss any of it.
Limiting the budget, resources and timeline of your new venture is healthy. It makes you and your team focus on what you really need to be successful. If you run a large organization and are considering trying something new (launching a new product, rolling out a new service), tap into the start of your business and treat it like the early days. It's impossible to "act like a startup" once a company gets used to operating at a certain level.
Lesson 4: Not Everyone Loves Change
I have two cats. One cat is the friendliest, sweetest cat in the world--or at least he was until we moved into a temporary apartment. Now he has a major attitude, lashing out at everyone.
This is true of your business as well. You as the owner are likely a big fan of change - especially if you are a visionary - but your employees may not be as excited. Take this reality into account and over-communicate the reason for the changes and the expected result. Your likelihood of success and resulting support for the effort will be greater.
Lesson 5: The "Fix" is Easier than You Think
As I have moved through the house correcting problems that have annoyed me since moving in, I am amazed at how easy it has been to fix many of them. For example, the vanity in the bathroom - it took one afternoon and less than $500 to make a dramatic improvement.
As a business owner, you often think that addressing a problem is going to be more difficult than it actually is - firing that problem employee, correcting a broken process, or making an uncomfortable phone call to a customer. The problem is made larger in your head than it is to address it.
Ask yourself everyday, "What have I done today to make tomorrow better?"
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