Early-stage entrepreneurship can be one of the most exciting times in a business or non-profit - you get to dabble in your creativity, test, experiment and tweak. You get to build. However, it can also be a time of great frustration. You can feel like you have too many initiatives and too little time to execute them. Are you an early-stage entrepreneur who feels like she is juggling a multitude of ideas and service offerings? Does it sometimes feel like you are throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks?
Here are some tips to help you get through this time of frustration, overwhelm, and seeing things fall through the cracks.
1. Identify Your Passion
When you are juggling all of your ideas and daily tasks, are you able to tune in to what aspects, services and programs give YOU and your team energy and momentum? Is it talking on the phone with your clients? Blogging about your business? Being outside, selling your products at the farmer’s market? Are you in touch with what your unique gifts are to your business or organization?
Whatever your passion may be, one of the keys to successful entrepreneurship is finding the intersection of what makes your business run and what the market needs, with what you love to do. While it’s not totally true that you need to work 80-hour weeks to be successful in your business, what will carry it forward and challenge you to work out the kinks when things go wrong, or push forward when you don’t have all the pieces, is your PASSION.
One of the greatest lessons I learned along the path of entrepreneurship was to NOT be afraid to get rid of the services or products that sucked my and my team’s energy. Instead, I learned to focus on the one or two things that I or my team felt absolutely passionate about and that we knew we could execute. Once you figure out your passion, you will see that it is so much easier to own and live up to the values of your business or organization, and to promote your business far and wide.
In the early days of the non-profit I ran, called C.E.O. Women, we gave birth to a multitude of programs; from financial literacy for women, to a computer business training program, to a 3-month entrepreneurship training program, to a coach- matching program. Holy moly! I know. I KNOW.
It was a lot for our small team to administer; we were burning the candle at both ends, and it wasn’t pretty. Awkward silences at the office became the norm, as people did not know what to do about the sheer amount of work. One day, my co-leader burst into tears when I made what I thought was a constructive criticism of her work. I had not realized that she worked several nights and weekends in a row in order to get her work done.
2. Hit the “Reset” Button
With the help of an executive coach and facilitator, we decided we needed a reset. We had built so many programs and offerings in such a short time, that our human resources capabilities couldn’t keep up with us. (This was due in part to my creative energy and my love of starting new things!) We felt like we were the jack-of- all-trades and master of none, and it didn’t make for a very productive work environment.
In a facilitated session, we ended up doing a very scary thing – we cut some of our programs. We looked at factors such as the cost to run the program, how many people benefited and the success rate of each program in a very analytical way. We inevitably decided that our bread and butter was our entrepreneurship training program. It had the deepest impact, and was central to our mission.
It’s not easy to let go of a program or service you have built from the ground up, but when you have limited resources and you are trying to achieve your mission, you have to make smarter choices.
Sometimes, cutting something out is the best decision you can make. It frees up mental space and resources for you to really make an impact with a service or offering about which you feel passionate or, frankly, for which there’s a demand.
3. Get Niche-y With It!
Through my experience with my own organization, I learned that the more specific and niche-focused you can be, the easier it will be for you to communicate with your audience and empower people to refer your services. At C.E.O. Women, we knew who we were as an organization, and instead of being pulled in a thousand different directions, we reset our focus.
Cutting some of our programs allowed us to concentrate our attention on making fewer programs better, and allowed us to focus on pursuing foundations and grantors that really resonated with our mission. It left us the mental space and energy to improve our ability to think strategically and execute services tenfold.
If your business or non-profit is going to have multiple offerings, make sure you start with one or two, and do a really good job with them first to test your market. You can use this same principal for any startup, really. The best emerging fashion designers, for instance, do not go to market with 10 designs; they focus on creating three or four really kick-ass designs for their line and then go to market.
Don’t be afraid to “niche out” your services and products. Add on where it makes sense, and don’t be afraid to cut. Cutting or downsizing ideas and initiatives may be just the re-invigoration your business or organization needs to succeed.
Where are you struggling in your business or non-profit at the moment? What do you need to take away in order to be the best you can be at delivering your product or service? I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments section!
Executive & Leadership Coach | Global Explorer | Founder, Surf Life Executive Coaching & Brown Girl Surf