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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dealing With the Uncertainty of Entrepreneurship

You have probably heard the saying “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it…” Well I did and I have. I longed wished to be on my own, run my own show, have my own business, call my own shots…I got all of that and then some.

Owning your business comes with a lot of responsibilities that I did not have before and a lot more work too. This is coming from a person that has been in charge of nuclear missiles, that has launched rockets into space and have managed multimillion dollar construction projects.

I say this not to impress you but to put in perspective that I am no stranger to handling a lot of responsibilities and many moving parts. Yet everything I did in the past seems now like less work and in some ways easier than what I am currently doing as an entrepreneur and business owner.

But above all the most challenging aspect of being a new entrepreneur is the uncertainty of it all...

Not knowing if you can make the sale…

Not knowing if you will find enough customers…

Not knowing if you will create enough revenue to cover all your operating costs let alone make a profit…

Not knowing if you will still be in business in six months or one year…

Not knowing if you can deliver on your customer expectations…

Not knowing if you can do all of the work you need to do…

Not knowing if you are going to make enough money to feed your family…

That is a whole lot of “not knowing”, much more than I thought I could handle.

So how have I been able to transition from the relative certainty that comes with a corporate job to the uncertainty of running a new business?

These practices have been key in helping me cope with the uncertainty of entrepreneurship:

1. Journal, pray and meditate – I have to put these practices first because they have allowed me to discover the rest of the practices in this list. Taking the time to reflect about what I am going through, what I feel and think and why is to me the first step in learning to deal with them constructively.

I start most of my days with prayer, meditation and journaling. These three exercises work together in helping me clarify what I am thinking and feeling, it allows me to understand why am having those thoughts and emotions and finally it helps me accept it and keep on moving forward.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of my prayer and meditation happens when I am out running. The combination of exercise, being outdoors and time by myself is a very productive meditation tool.

2. Planning – this is the practice of sitting down and figuring out where I am, where I want to go and how I am going to get there. This goes hand in hand with goal setting.

Seldom do things go for me as I planned them. But having a plan gives me confidence every time I head out the door. It gives me a to do list every morning. It removes some of the fear because it allows me to see how I can achieve what I want.

Planning is not a one time thing…it’s constant. My weakness is spending too much time planning and not enough executing. This is where journaling again comes in handy because it allows me to realize this and keeps me moving.

3. Education – many times fear is the product of ignorance. Education is the cure for that. In the last couple of months I have had to learn sales, accounting, marketing, advertising, cold calling, new technology platforms and much more.

But by realizing what I don’t know and then going out and educating myself on those things, what once was overwhelming now seems manageable.

4. Being Prepared – creating your own safety net. For me this means having money in savings and an emergency fund. Visualizing worst case scenario and how to deal with it. Being debt free. Being insured. In short, knowing that although I can't eliminate risk, I have taken steps to minimize it.

5. Mentoring and Support – this has been a life saver for me. Having a support system and regularly reaching out to them, consulting with them and learning fromt their experiences has been invaluable to me. When you reach out to others that have walked the path you are trying to walk you will be surprised at how much people want to help. But you got to make the first move, it will not fall in your lap.

6. Acceptance – uncertainty is not always bad. The sense of adventure that comes with not knowing how things will turn out can be very rewarding. So accepting that my life is uncertain and that’s the way life is gives me peace and allows me to continue moving forward.

The most important transition that all of the above has allowed me to make is the realization that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability of not letting fear stop me.

The point is that as hard as it has been to make this transition the reality is that the biggest battle is in my own head and the “certainty” and “security” in life are non-existent, it’s all imaginary. Also that "worst case scenarios" usually only happen in my head.

Entrepreneurship and uncertainty go hand in hand but you don't have to be afraid of it or let it stop you. Being proactive and implementing the above steps as well as understanding that you cannot eliminate uncertainty you can only manage it are the key steps to keeping you moving forward.

QUESTION: How have you dealt with uncertainty in business or life? Have you let it stop you from making a decision?

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