When you're running a startup, there is a misguided feeling of fear that your operational system is failing you. Fear that your concept is going to fail or that you won't be able to make it through to the next step.
When I started my company in 2006, I wrote a business plan. I designed a retail operation, prepared to execute it and get the results I planned for.
It didn't go so well.
No one told me that it doesn't work that way, so I took it personally. I thought it was my plan and design that weren't good.
With nowhere to turn, I started to listen to what my customers had to say very closely. I connected with them deeply and began making an action list to provide what it was they wanted, even though I thought at times their desires were preposterous.
In the first four years, every month it felt like the operation wasn't working.
Our retail software system wasn't meeting our needs. We didn't have enough staff to service our customers.
Hiring and training took too long. Our accounting systems were not good. Our customer service was not keeping everyone happy.
At any given moment, I could honestly say that it felt like things were falling apart.
The lesson: A successful operation experiences challenges so as to not remain stagnant. Every challenge brings an opportunity to tweak and grow.
Early on in the company it may not feel that way, it may feel that things are not working out and that is exactly how it is supposed to feel.
Here are three tips on how to survive the early stage turmoil:
1. Categorize what is not working and prioritize
Make a list of what is not working in categories.
You will see that sometimes addressing one category will organically address another category. Create a priority schedule on what challenges need to be addressed first.
Make an action list of ideas to implement to address the challenge. Be specific and come up with actions that don't tie you in long term. Stay flexible and play trial and error.
2. Hold on to your cash
Do not spend money on what you think will be the end all, be all solution.
There is no magical solution that will make the discomfort of the chaos go away. Implement strategies that are cost effective and will allow your company to continue to stay flexible and meet your customers needs without the burden of unusually high overhead.
3. Spend five minutes, twice daily, writing down the vision for the big picture
Spend five minutes in the morning and at night before you go to sleep to write down your big picture vision for where you are headed.
It is important to keep perspective, especially in the first five years of a business. Getting lost in the minutia, the turmoil and the emotions that come with them can hinder your ability to be creative and come up with your next best idea to implement.
Envisioning the big picture will also help you manage your time so that you aren't spending your energy on details that don't serve your big picture vision.
If your system is working perfectly, know there's something wrong. You're company is on a secret downward spiral and you just don't know it yet.