Seven disciplines that bring entrepreneurial freedom
You wish to become an entrepreneur to free yourself from the constraints of your job. However, after getting started you discover that the freedom you desire is elusive. Constraints from your job are now replaced by those from cashflows, investors, employees, clients, vendors and several other sources.
When implemented rigorously, these seven disciplines will create the space you need to paint your entrepreneurial canvas.
Disciple 1: Focus on yourself before others.
Earn the right to manage other people by managing yourself first. The simplest way to bring about change in others is to demonstrate those values yourself. Organizations embody the behaviors of the founder – both good and bad. If you find problems in your organization, examine first if you have them yourself and find a way to address them.
When you focus on your development, you will naturally focus on the development of others. The more responsible people become, the lesser they require to be managed.
Discipline 2: Build a culture that corrects itself.
Culture is the secret ingredient that keeps organizations alive. It attracts the right kind of people to work with you, whether they are employees or clients or investors or partners. It tells people what’s right for the organization at important junctures by saying “yes, that’s us” or “no, that’s not us”. It keeps people going during tough times and brings them back to work the next day. When you create a strong culture it serves as a self-correcting platform that keeps the organization safe.
Building a strong culture requires consistency in your behavior and actions.
Discipline 3: Know your priorities and execute on them.
Some entrepreneurs face the problem of not knowing what’s important and are distracted by the next shiny ball. Some others face the problem of knowing their priorities but not executing on them, giving up on goals too quickly.
This discipline requires you to be constantly aware of what’s important to the organization and act on them with focus.
Discipline 4: Resist making every decision.
Entrepreneurs make the mistake of involving themselves in every decision. You need to allow people to make decisions and fail within a framework. It is through failure that people grow.
Resist the temptation of making a decision however easy it is for you. People can involve you in all kinds of decisions – from the quality of toilet rolls to pricing for proposals. Choose your involvement based on the maturity of your organization. Do your best to let your team evolve every six months by helping others take actions that you used to.
Think of your role as a success when the company thinks it can run without you, not the other way round.
Discipline 5: Build strengths, delegate weaknesses.
Surrounding yourself with people better than you will not undermine your presence, instead it will magnify it because you will get the freedom to live your strengths. The more you focus on your strengths, the more useful you will be to your company.
This discipline will develop the skill in you to look for strengths in others, instead of hounding them for their weaknesses. Allowing people to thrive on their strengths encourages them to perform better and enjoy their work.
Discipline 6: Get the right money on your back.
When you are small, it’s easy to keep your team aligned to your vision. But when you grow, especially using outside capital, it’s critical to bring the right kind of investors onboard. Unaligned investors create more chaos than order. When your investors don’t support your execution, you will struggle to balance their expectations with those of your clients and employees. Your own passion will wither in a cloud of conflicted priorities.
In recent months, we’ve seen many stories of startups that lost their way after rapid infusion of capital. Develop the discipline of evaluating whether an investor is a long-term fit for your needs.
Discipline 7: Track cashflows regardless of how well you are doing.
Startups fail unexpectedly because they miss aligning the four key cashflow determinants: what they earn, when they earn, what they spend and when they spend. If you lose sight of real money and mistake volumes of unpaid users for cashflows, your venture could go belly-up.
Profitable startups also make the mistake of not paying attention to less-exciting activities such as book-keeping, invoicing and getting paid in time.
The discipline of tracking cashflows gives you a sense of problems before they occur and help you keep the ship stable.
Entrepreneurs confuse success with a big payday when they can retire on a boat somewhere. But if that’s all you wish to do, why work so hard in building a company? There are surely more predictable and easier ways to retire rich.
Entrepreneurship gives you a platform to express yourself in countless ways and be useful. It’s about creating opportunities for people to come together to take a shot at making the world a better place. These seven disciplines will help you realize your potential more freely.
(This article was also published in The Economic Times here)
Image Credit: Ben Moore