Having worked with small businesses and startups across many industries, I've learned a lot about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. I've talked about things like pain tolerance, learning, and failure in this column, but there's one other factor that is more important than all the rest.
Being aligned with your business.
"Alignment" has morphed into a buzzword that can refer to any number of things, but when I talk about being "aligned with your business," I mean enjoying every aspect of what you do. To put it simply, being aligned with your business means you're excited to work on it. When you're not aligned, you dread it. You might even hate your business.
And unfortunately, hating your business can happen quicker than you might think. All of a sudden, one facet of your business is doing well and you're forced to change everything to capitalize on that success. The next thing you know, your business is generating revenue but it's turned into something entirely different--and you hate it!
Staying aligned with your business from the start.
If you're just starting out as an entrepreneur, or if you're thinking about starting a business, here's my advice in six simple words: Think about what you really want.
What do you want your business to look like?
Who do you want to serve?
How much money do you want to make?
How much do you want to work?
What do you want to be doing every day?
If you can get clear on these questions from the beginning, you can develop your business around those goals instead of what might make you the most money. If an easy cash-grab comes along but it's not in line with your vision, don't do it!
I became an entrepreneur because I wanted the freedom to work when I want and from where I want. I now run a fully remote company that helps entrepreneurs scale their businesses without the pain of hiring. I am fully aligned with my business--and trust me, that would not be the case had I simply gone with the easiest revenue generator.
How to readjust when you find yourself out of alignment.
For the current entrepreneur who is feeling out of alignment with his or her business, getting "realigned" can be a challenge. In extreme cases, you may even need to start over or completely rethink your business.
I recently talked with Jill Stanton of Screw the Nine to Five about this, and she has a fascinating story that shows just how extreme these situations can get.
Jill's business is primarily an affiliate marketing company--she and her husband help unsatisfied employees quit their jobs and start online businesses--but at one point she opened a new area of her business called "Screw U," a paid membership site that offered education to her audience in the form of coaching calls, webinars, and weekly content. It was generating over $330,000 annually, but she started to hate it because of the huge time commitment. Things got even worse after she had a baby.
So, she made the bold decision to completely shut down this part of her business to focus exclusively on affiliate marketing, the one thing she loved.
The result? The affiliate marketing portion of her business ended up producing far more than the membership site had made, and she loved every second of it. Through this crisis, she developed a simple exercise that I'd recommend to everyone.
For every task that comes with your business, ask yourself "Does this feel heavy or light?"
If something feels heavy, that means you secretly don't want to do it. You dread doing it, and you may procrastinate or put it off. You might think you're not qualified or you're not going to do a good job. Jill likens it to making plans with someone when deep down you know you're going to cancel. Her membership site felt incredibly heavy to her.
When things feel light, it's the opposite. You feel energized, motivated, and confident. You're playing to win, and you're committed to making that thing happen. There's no negative self-talk because you know you're going to crush it--and you can't wait to do so.
If you are doing this exercise and find a lot of heavy things cropping up, that's a warning sign. You're not in alignment with your business, and something needs to change. Whether it's offloading a certain activity you dislike or shutting down an entire part of your business, you'll be better off in the end.