We’ve all bitten off more than we could chew. Entrepreneurs however, are especially prone to this mistake. I’d say everyone who starts a venture from scratch will eventually have to face this problem.
And it’s not surprising. Combine all the basic ingredients that make entrepreneurs successful- drive, passion, and an affinity for risk-taking, and what you’ve got are the same ingredients that lead to over-commitment.
The solution to over-commitment is ridiculously simple- learn to say NO.
OK, we lied. It’s not as simple as we make it sound.
Shut up, kid- before I shove this bottle of Gerber’s up your… anyway…You will always find people who are hard to refuse – investors, parasitical friends and family members who want in on your success, demanding but potentially valuable customers, nosy stock photo babies- the list is endless.
Now we’re not saying you shouldn’t try to grab opportunities that present themselves -otherwise you wouldn’t even have started in the first place. But every entrepreneurial newbie should know we can’t have everything.
Opportunity Cost: The Most Inconvenient Truthiness
Opportunity cost is a fact of life for everyone- unfortunately, it’s an inconvenient… fact… for entrepreneurs. So inconvenient, many will (probably unknowingly) choose to to ignore it. Fact is, you can’t make time for everything. Pretending otherwise is one of the dumbest moves you can ever make. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the easiest.
When you over-commit, it always follows that you overextend your resources as well. What a lot of us seem to forget is, time and attention are resources too! It often follows when you do one thing, you need to give up other things. Crazy simple.
There are ways to improve your ability to focus, and there are way to make it easier to manage your time- true. But unless someone invents a working flux capacitor, you, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg have the exact same number of hours in a day.
And even with their near-unlimited resources, you can bet your keester they’ve learned to say no. And those guys can afford to delegate responsibility to a lot of very talented people so they don’t need to spend their time and attention doing things they can’t do very well, or can’t do -period. Can you afford to delegate?
The answer of course, depends. But the vast majority of new businesses have employees numbering in the single digits. And this doesn’t even include ventures yet to be registered. If you’re the average new entrepreneur, it’s safe to say you probably can’t afford a heck of a lot- much less afford to delegate responsibility – at least, not yet. Sweating the little stuff and doing everything is almost part of the job description.
Who Finds Decision-making Fun? Yeah, Me Neither.
If you can’t delegate, yet you find yourself trying to accommodate everyone, don’t be surprised if you make a lot of terrible decisions. And doing more things almost always leads to more stress, which in turn leads to crappier decisions- such as deciding to take on more than you could handle. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of not getting anything done right.
“…honey, salmon… Shoot. Guess I’ll just have the stock photo baby.”
It’s shocking studies needed to be made on this, since it all seems like common sense – until you realize most entrepreneurs have a passion and optimism bordering (or crossing into) the delusional that helps them succeed. Being willing to put on different hats is what makes entrepreneurs what they are. But in the long run, too many bad decisions will always lead to a bad job- and a ruined reputation.
Saying no doesn’t always mean you should burn bridges. If you have to refuse someone, make sure they know you’re doing it because you respect them too much to give them something half-assed. And if you respect yourself, you wouldn’t do anything half-assed either.
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