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We’ve got this entrepreneurship thing all wrong…

An overhead shot of a woman writing on a notebook with a brown hat beside her

With almost 4 years of experience as an entrepreneur, I’ve heard a lot of badge-of-honor stories about entrepreneurship and what it takes to make it.

In my first two years of starting a business, I especially paid attention to the emotional roller coaster – the ups and downs we experience when we start something and put ourselves out there.

I deeply related to the emotional roller coaster; I used to spend a lot of time on it.

As I’ve built up my experience as a leader and entrepreneur, however, I can confidently say we need to be done with the emotional roller coaster.

When we talk about it with an air of celebration or normalcy, we actually harm aspiring entrepreneurs. Here’s what I mean:

Super successful entrepreneur talks about the trials of getting her business off the ground: She says “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” and “I almost quit 10 times,” and “I had no life for 5 years.”

In those statements, I hear: “Wow. Success is hard. I’ll have to put up with a lot of pain and suffering…”

So I accept the pain and suffering as normal, as the price I have to pay to succeed. That’s what I’ve done. Others may decide they don’t want the pain and suffering and don’t attempt to launch their projects at all.

Stories of overcoming challenge should absolutely be celebrated; but, I think we’ve got this entrepreneurship thing all wrong.

Here’s what you really should be doing if you want to launch a business, or a freelancer career or whatever creating your ideal work situation looks like. 

Master the Mindset

In today’s culture of go-go-go, we tend to skip a lot of the work we actually need to do to be successful.

When I started my first company BOULD, I had no idea what I was doing. So I set out to learn everything: How to look at the competitive landscape, how to market a product, how to find customers, how to develop financial projections, etc.

This netted me a lot of wasted time and lost energy.

It was only after I burned out and shut down BOULD that I learned my approach was significantly flawed.

Rather than focusing on all the business to-do’s, work on the following:

Get clear on your greatest weaknesses

Successful people are positive, reliable, focused, determined, persistent, hardworking, energetic, good with people, and strong communicators.

Seriously, those are a lot of good qualities and they all play a role in launching a successful business.

All of these qualities can be learned. More importantly is resigning to learning them.

What do you need to do to become a better, more resilient leader?  

First, take note of your low moments.

When you’re feeling down in the dumps – what are you saying to yourself?

Once you can tap into this moment you can start shifting your thoughts from negative to positive so you can start becoming a more conscious leader.

Second, get help. Maybe that means joining a community of like-minded people, or maybe it means speaking with someone who can help you identify what’s holding you back from being the leader you can be. We’re able to move much more quickly when we decide to invest in ourselves and our own growth.

And third, develop a ritual to help you stay present. Maybe that means waking up early to meditate for 10 minutes or taking a few minutes to journal at night. All of these activities accumulate to help you become more self aware (a critical skill if you’re going to lead or launch anything).

When are you feeling resistance?

It’s not easy to identify our resistance. I think subconsciously we just don’t want to see it.

Tap into moments when you’re talking yourself out of doing something.

For example, if you’re getting ready to share your idea for the first time, are you saying things like, “I can’t host this event because I’m not ready,” or “I don’t have enough credibility right now,” “Or, logistically it just won’t work out.”

Chances are you’re holding yourself back and you don’t even know it.

Working on the areas above will give you the foundation you need to be a leader.

As you master the above, work on the “business” stuff.

Who is Your Ideal Customer?  

It can take a long time to identify your ideal customer. But no one told me this before I launched my first company.

I’d find really general advice like “identify your avatar.”

With my experience, getting clear on your customer is like iterating on your product. In addition to building and having a product (or service), you’ll need to speak to a lot of people to find product-market fit.

Start by sharing your idea with as many people who sort of fit your ideal customer as possible.  

From there, read and re-read the feedback. You’ll start to identify patterns that can help inform your product.

How can you test your idea?

After you have some sense of who your ideal customer is, go out and speak to them. Better yet, give them an experience with your product, no matter how rough it is. 

Then observe them:

What does your ideal customer think?

How does she interact with the product?

What is her experience like?

I strongly recommend going beyond surveys and finding ways to actually give your customer the experience of your product and service. 

This probably feels scary at first because it’s much easier to send out a survey. But, observation is more powerful because you’ll start to understand your customer in  a deeper way.

To Launch a Business….

All of this can take a lot of time, which is why working on the mindset is so critical. Working on your resilience and leadership skills will keep you focused and positive, especially as you iterate a few times to find product – market fit. 

Now tell us in the comments, what’s your favorite insight from the article above? What’s one area you can focus on right now as you think about launching a business?


Belma McCaffrey

Author Belma McCaffrey

More posts by Belma McCaffrey

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