The biggest entrepreneurial success stories of our age all have one thing in common: leaders who not only planned, analyzed, and dreamed, but who also took action. In the early days of Apple, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs didn't just study market share. Wozniak programmed and Jobs spent hours in his kitchen calling potential investors.
I didn't take the same initiative when I started my company. I kept coming up with different ideas about how to run the business--without executing any of them. When I asked my father about them, his advice never wavered: "Just get sh*t done!"
This might as well be the motto at my company now. To this day, I try to put my father's advice into practice. Here are some of the ways I do so:
1. Create a to-do list every day.
Large tasks that feel impossible to complete can paralyze entrepreneurs with anxiety. To tackle an overwhelming to-do list, break goals down into steps, so you can cross off important tasks that get you closer to conquering huge and complex goals every day. Losing sight of the outcome because you're overwhelmed of each day's or week's tasks is defeating and unrealistic. Checklists never go away if you're doing it right; they evolve as your business evolves.
When I started Hawke Media, I was consulting for quite a few brands and wanted to scale my business. To get it off the ground, I needed to hire, build a website, file business paperwork, continue to sell, service my existing clients, and find office space, among a slew of other things. Rather than procrastinate, I worked hard and checked each task off the list as quickly as possible. Within two months, I had a profitable business, which has grown from seven to 35 employees within a year and a half.
2. Shrug off obstacles and go for it.
Don't try to plan or learn too much in the beginning. If you know what's needed, take the initiative to learn enough to implement a solution until you find the right person for the job. When my partner and I needed a website built for our T-shirt subscription company, Swag of the Month, we had a hard time finding a developer. My partner decided to spend a couple of weeks learning some programming while I kept searching.
It can be overwhelming to add these tasks to your plate, but it's all about taking one thing at a time. Starting a business isn't easy, and you're going to have to work harder and expand your knowledge base further than most if you want to succeed. The most important--and hardest--thing to realize is, if you can't afford to hire someone to do a job that must be done once your business is up and running, there's probably something wrong with your business model.
3. Don't be afraid to fail.
Back when I worked with a company called Ellie, we launched and earned $1 million in revenue in the first four months, and our operation and supply team blew $5 million in funding on mistakes. Those errors led the company into a death spiral, and we had to figure out how to climb out.
In the aftermath, I learned a lot about how to grow a company's top line and how not to squander $5 million on operational missteps. On a more personal level, I realized that I wanted to work for myself to avoid dealing with such blunders ever again. Although it was a difficult situation, failure gave me the opportunity to greatly expand in my career.
In any business, always set out with at least these three points covered:
- Learn something that can be valuable in the future and for another endeavor.
- Build your credibility. Even in failure, make sure you have shown progress and can highlight the good sides of the failure. Everyone experiences letdowns, but you can still find a positive angle. Though Ellie didn't work out, I had the opportunity to manage a massive marketing budget and see it to fruition with a very positive return.
- Enjoy it. Life is too short to fail to enjoy the journey--and if you don't, the destination means nothing.
If you focus on these main things in business, your efforts will be completely worth it, regardless of whether you encounter success or failure.
4. Be here now.
It's easy for entrepreneurs to get distracted by new ideas or enticed by dreams of future success. But think of living and working in the present as building the foundation for future triumph. To achieve long-term goals, you must make consistent progress in your day-to-day work. Solve today's problems and complete today's tasks, leaving tomorrow's for tomorrow.
I learned this lesson the hard way. When my company was still young, I was offered a potential acquisition. The business wasn't in a place to be acquired yet, but the idea of it intoxicated me. Instead of focusing on day-to-day growth, I started making decisions with an acquisition in mind. I stopped spending money on growth and instead devoted resources toward maximizing a future bottom line. I was working toward a dream instead of reality, and reality suffered for it. Eventually, my father's advice caught up to me; I realized my mistake and cut off the acquisition talks in order to focus on building my business.
We live in a world of incredible ideas, but few people ever take action to see them through to fruition. Many more fall by the wayside, distracted by the need to overanalyze, frozen by fear and uncertainty, and stuck in never-ending ideation sessions. To rise above the worry and turn your big idea into a reality, remember: Just get sh*t done.