We can’t all be a Neil Diamond, but there is something everyone is good at doing.
Developing your entrepreneurial attributes
In more recent times, as I started to write my story about my first business, I have continued to refine my thinking with a little more insight and a little more hindsight about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.
- One of the strongest characteristics of an entrepreneur is their capacity to develop visions for developing and turning situations around, so that was not the reason I closed the machinery business.
- I could have scaled the organisation down even further to meet the situation we were in, after all, I had done it before on a number of occasions and I was offered enough money to do just that, so that wasn’t the problem.
- For many years I was regarded as having one of the best teams of people in the country, we had a great culture, with good values based on customer service excellence, so it wasn’t a people problem.
- Maybe it was the drought? I learned more from studying people in more recent droughts and floods, how heartbreaking it can be for farmers to shoot their livestock because it’s cheaper than taking them to market. How was I to tell long standing loyal employees I can no longer afford them, despite the fact they had been well trained and not easy to replace when the good times returned.
- Perhaps it was my vision and drive had been tarnished by the drought. This is probably the right answer. However, I now understand just how important having a clear purpose and vision really are to your future. This was my real problem.
There is so much to learn from the lyrics of songs. The following lyrics from a song made famous by Neil Diamond typifies the feelings of many entrepreneurs.
“Now the face that I see in my mirror, more and more is a stranger to me.
More and more I can see there’s a danger in becoming what I never thought I’d be.
Some days are diamonds, some days are stone.
Sometimes the hard times won’t leave me alone.
Sometimes the cold winds blow a chill in my bones.
Some days are diamonds, some days are stone”.
The feelings of helplessness can be overpowering to even the strongest of entrepreneurs, but I believe these feelings can be overcome if you take the time to think, reflect, plan, apply your entrepreneurial attributes and take actions, no matter how trivial they may seem at the time.
I am not usually excited with incremental success as I am a big picture person. However, I have learned ‘little fish are sweet’. If your back is up against the wall, it is those little incremental successes that will have you going again in no time.
If you want to turn things around, stay away from negative, unenthusiastic, unconstructive, unhelpful, off-putting, pessimistic, depressing, damaging and destructive people at all cost.
A business that is not profitable may survive with injections of funds, but eventually, those funds have to run out. Some businesses simply do not have an entrepreneur or an appropriate business model aligned for survival, regardless of any actions taken or capital invested.
Sometimes a business just will not work, despite your very best efforts and the money put into it. This is the time you need to seek advice from entrepreneurs you trust and respect and if necessary, ‘bite the bullet’ and let it go before it places you in a much worse situation and causes you health problems.
Time is limited for us all in this life so don’t try and live someone else’s life or dream. Do you own thing and do it well.
Triage is something I learned from hospitals
When I was in the hospital with my first bout of cancer I had plenty of time on my hands to think and reflect on what I had become and what I had done as an entrepreneur.
It was at this time I studied what went on in hospitals for the first time. I observed and experienced a number of important things relating to the triage nurse. Triage is a French word loosely translated means to ‘sort’ or ‘choose’.
It also has a number of applications and is not just used in hospitals:
- In hospitals, in wars and disasters, it is a process for sorting sick people based on their need for medical treatment. Triage is used when limited medical assistance must be prioritised and allocated.
- When there are scarce resources such as food and clothing, it is used to allocate the resources to satisfy the most urgent needs.
- It is also considered a process in which things are ranked in terms of importance or priority.
Just as the hospital triage gives the patient with the greatest chance of survival the opportunity to receive emergency treatment, it can be applied to business situations.
The order in which a project or opportunity receives treatment can be determined by the status of the project, possible prognosis, or projected outcomes, by applying the five levels of triage which are: referred, non-urgent, urgent, emergent and resuscitation.
When patients have emergencies or are in a critical condition, they must go through triage to determine what type of medical attention is needed. Triage needs to be done quickly and accurately so the patient receives prompt and effective medical care.
Hospitals without a triage nurse work in absolute chaos, as it is in many business situations, Creating a triage system will show you how to react when confronted with the chaos created by the business. Good processes can lead to a continuous improvement being implemented in the business.
How many critical projects or activities do you have in your business and how would you rate and prioritise them? Disaster will beckon if you ignore them and hope they will go away. A ‘Business Health Check’ on the business is the best starting point I know. Learning to manage a to-do list will also have a big impact on your success story.
You can also apply the battlefield levels of care when there is a major crisis in order to come up with the best way forward, or mission critical:
- Those who are likely to live, regardless of what care they receive;
- Those who are likely to die, regardless of what care they receive;
- Those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference to their outcome.
This might sound a bit brutal, but sometimes it is necessary to be brutal in order to survive.
Different worry about different things
The entrepreneur doesn’t have the same worries as other people in businesses and organisations. For instance, they don’t lay awake worrying about making the sale, or losing customers, or failing as they are confident in their own ability. Worry is like a rocking chair, it requires energy and it gets you nowhere, but they do worry about the following:
- Having to deal with too much detail and implementation.
- Having someone to manage the ‘small stuff’, so they can manage the ‘big stuff’.
- Surfing the waves of change and globalisation.
- Keeping up with new technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data
- Running out of money before the job is done.
- Spending more time with family and friends.
- The impact of business on their health.
- The future for young people, jobs and business in general.
Selecting the right people
Picking the right people was always a big issue for me, as I took people at face value and gave them full credit for their qualifications. Not so anymore, the things I look at are their values, their personality, their desire to work on the particular project, then I look at their qualifications and capacity to do the job.
Telling everyone in the organisation to be more positive and willing doesn’t help, it has to come from an honest genuinely caring basis, from both parties. It is this attitude of caring and sharing I believe to be an important driver of a project or an organisation.
I will not change who I am for anyone, irrespective of who they are and what they can do for me. It’s important to maintain your self-respect at all costs and lose someone sooner rather than later when things can become more complicated.
I believe young people today have a better attitude than they did when I was young, they definitely care deeply for the people they work with and the people and the community they seek to serve.
It is this genuineness I believe becomes a key characteristic of an entrepreneur as it is developed. Had my attitude been more developed the selection of the right people with the right attitudes and values in the first place, I would have avoided a lot of pain along the way.
As Stephen Covey says, “Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us”.
Balancing family and business
The strength and success of the family business sector are vital to the future of Australia’s economy, community and culture. They account for around 70% of all Australian businesses, employing 50% of the workforce. A family-owned business does not mean just a small business as there are many corporations still family owned.
I have combined a successful family and business career over the last 50 years, which is not so common these days. I have been called a workaholic, uncaring because of my business activities, but as a family, we have been through all the ups and downs together.
I find it difficult to understand why families break up because of business failures, in our case we became stronger.
It is helpful to understand the conditions that lead to good family businesses, as each has certain strengths and weaknesses, personality styles and temperaments. I put our success down to having totally opposite personality styles, I am the entrepreneur and Sue is very practical and realistic, so our life is exciting and vibrant, most of the time anyway.
Excessive stress is a killer
Stress was one thing I paid no attention to as I felt it was not something that affected me, life was too exciting to be worrying. After my second heart attack, I received the message loud and clear, I had to find the real underlying cause of my problem. I sort out advice, did some general research and I wrote to help clarify my thoughts and set a course of action.
I constantly hear how stress is bad for your health, your capacity to act and get things done, but some stress is important to productivity, as long as it is not too much.
I also learned about the types of stress from a model published by Richard Lazarus. The model divided stress into ‘eustress’ and ‘distress’. Where stress enhances function, physical or mental, such as through strength training or challenging work you like, it may be considered as eustress. Persistent stress that is not resolved through coping or adaptation may lead to distress (anxiety) or withdrawal (depression) behaviour.
Eustress is defined in the model as stress that is healthy or gives one a feeling of fulfilment. This is the type of positive stress that keeps us vital and excited about life. This was the cause of my health problems. I had too much of the eustress and had no idea that good stress is handled by the body in the same was as distress.
I now recognise stress and worry for what it is and I have focused on what I can control and do something about and work at a more relaxed pace.
Entrepreneurs have time management problem too
I used to think I was a time management guru until I realised many of the popular techniques I used were not working. Good time management is essential to being successful at whatever you do. However, I have experienced periods where I lacked energy and despite all the will in the world, things did not happen as I wanted.
Is your problem not having enough time available to become more successful, or is it that you lack the energy to do what needs to be done? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?
If your energy is low the first thing do is to have a check-up with your doctor. Fatigue and energy problems are common in many diseases.
No matter what the time of day, everyone sometimes needs a boost of energy. But be careful, reaching for that coffee mug, or a quick nip isn’t always the best answer. There are ways to naturally boost your energy when you need it the most.
While it may surprise you, the real energy boosters are fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, whole grains, and more, as they contain nutrients that fight off fatigue-causing toxins. Natural fatigue remedies are much healthier and more effective than caffeine, chocolate and other stimulants.
I also find it amazing how a short walk or another exercise will restore energy levels and there is nothing like a bit of good news to get the adrenaline pumping again.
Physical and emotional pain
Most people today, particular men, seem to go to the doctor to see about their physical pain. As soon as the Doctor tells us that we’re alright, that there’s nothing wrong with us, then in an instant, we can actually begin to feel better.
Of course, there are the times when we do need antibiotics or something such medication and off we go to the Chemist to have the prescription filled, start to take the prescribed course of action, and start to get well again.
For most people, that is a fairly normal way to address physical pain, and it usually works fine. But what do we do about the emotional pain?
In my experience, most people have to be down on their knees, having reached rock-bottom in their lives, before they will ask for the help of any kind (if they ever ask at all). In these days of help being more readily available, there is no need for anyone to suffer beyond having a bad day now and then.
Yes, bad days happen to most of us, that’s life. But long-term emotional pain can be a mental problem and requires assistance in healing. Emotional pain in our lives can reveal itself in so many different ways. Bad habits, prolonged ill health, losing jobs, poor relationships, doing what you don’t enjoy, stress, negative patterns (cycles which you can’t seem to break), depression, feeling on edge, anxiety, so it’s not only about feeling sad every now and then.
Please, for your own sake, and for the sake of those who love you and care about you, seek help to heal that emotional pain now. It may be time for you to say “enough is enough”. No more excuses. Ask yourself a simple question. “Do I feel bad enough to get some help now, or will I wait until I feel worse”?
If only one person makes some different choices through any of the above messages today, then I have done my job. Holding on is not what makes us stronger, healthier and happier.
It’s too hard doing it by yourself
It can take a few knocks before you learn. Great things are seldom achieved alone and good ideas are a dime a dozen until they are implemented. There is a limit to what any entrepreneur can achieve working alone, hence the need for teamwork.
The entrepreneur on the road to failure is the one who never empowers others nor seeks the help of others, for whatever reason. Those entrepreneurs have yet to learn “it’s too hard doing it by yourself”, or keep bumbling along.
As an entrepreneur, it’s very important to understand you have no exclusive right to what is being done, you are only the idea generator, you will eventually need others to help you if the project is going to go anywhere.
You need to become secure in your delegating if progress is to be made. I realise it is easier said than done but, you need to master the “must do everything myself” attitude and actually stop doing everything yourself.
The more insecure you are, the more you endanger the chance of that idea, innovation, product, service or lifestyle ever becoming a reality. A business advisor will help ensure you have someone to hold you accountable for your actions, whilst helping you develop your delegation and outsourcing skills. Make your projects and success story so interesting and their outcomes so useful, that everyone will want to jump on your ‘bandwagon’ and help you.
Lacking implementation skills
Entrepreneurs often fail because they are not very good at implementing their ideas or working at an operational level. You can come up with the great ideas for the organisation, sometimes down to the last detail, but then you need others to help with the implementation.
I know from firsthand experience when I am forced to spend too much time at the operational level, I will quickly lose interest and move on. An organisation that can afford it, is far better to send me on holidays, or simply park me on a problem to solve until new ideas are needed to drive the business.
If you become bogged down by factors which are not within your control such as political, economic, social and technological environments, they can sometimes override the organisation and tip the balance of the organisation towards failure.
Good implementation along with perfection requires many little things to be done well and if you become bogged down with the implementation of little things, the organisation runs the risk of stalling at best, failing at worst.
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When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch up.
Entrepreneurs are not agreeable to early exits from their pursuits and many only have a scant interest in succession planning.
Personally, I think the word retirement should be struck from our vocabulary. Sure you change your lifestyles to accommodate your bodies ageing but retire, never.
Having lived through a few major health traumas, I can assure you I am not ready to die as there is too much to be accomplished, as long as I don’t have to deal with the operational details.