We’re fortunate enough to get to fill each day having conversations with the people who have seen problems in the world, were savvy enough to recognize “I can do something about that”, and brave enough to step out and do it. We cannot speak highly enough about these people and what they mean to our lives, communities, and country as a whole. Without them, everything we have starts to fall apart. By this point it’s almost cliché, but they truly are the backbone of our society.
For as vast and diverse as the solutions they bring to the market are, there is an undeniable similarity in the struggles entrepreneurs have. Certainly, each one deals with their own nuanced issues, but in our years of meeting with, supporting, and working alongside entrepreneurs we have noticed a consistent set of problems that effect nearly 100% of them. They may not always come right out and say it, but when we dig in, we almost always arrive on at least one of the following struggles, and more often it’s a combination of them.
So, what are the issues that every entrepreneur struggles with…? They are three of the most basic human feelings and, unless intentionally fought against, will suck in and trap every business owner at some point. These struggles are:
If a $100 bill magically appeared every time an entrepreneur told us “I’m in over my head, I don’t have anyone to help dig me out, and I’m scared to make any moves because I’ve invested everything I have in this…”, we could all pack up and retire. (But we wouldn’t.)
How is it that, across such a spectrum of businesses, ideas, and solutions, there is a consistent theme among them? Quite simply…entrepreneurship is really hard.
I’m Overwhelmed…At Capacity…Worn Out…Burned Out
As an entrepreneur, whether you’re in the start up phase, the stabilizing phase, or the scaling phase, there is no shortage of work to be done. And unless you’re a highly capitalized business (which the vast majority are not), you likely don’t have the revenue necessary to hire all the people you need. This leaves our entrepreneur playing a constant game of “whack-a-mole”, doing their best to keep up with everything that pops up throughout the day. Unfortunately, this leaves them having to triage the business, choosing to handle what is most critical at that moment. With seemingly no other choice, they’re left focusing their attention on the things that help keep them afloat…and the things that would solve the problems (and to allow them to put down the padded whacker) are left for another day.
Once you’re in this cycle, it’s incredibly tough to break free. You’re stuck in the day-to-day grind, unable to spend time fixing the problems that continue to push you into the day-to-day grind. Things like company vision, planning, building structure, writing processes and procedures, bookkeeping, training, and other foundational business pieces are left undone as you handle what you must to make it through today. And, kudos to you, you do! Every day, you make it through, and that in and of itself is an immense accomplishment…but one can only live in that cycle for so long before the cycle starts to win.
I Don’t Want To Do This By Myself…I Have No One That Understands…I Am On An Island
Interestingly, we hear “I’m lonely” most often from entrepreneurs with employees that Mr. Overwhelmed would kill to have. They’re not lonely in the typical or literal sense of being alone…this is a different, deeper sense of being on their own.
Humans have a basic need for true, deep contact with other humans. And, while it may seem to the outsider that they’re robotic workaholics, entrepreneurs are in-fact humans. However, as entrepreneurs and small business owners, we’re often left without these needed and desired relationships.
A team of employees can be a beautiful blessing, but typically doesn’t fulfill this relational need. In fact, it can complicate it…this team doesn’t understand the hours you put in at home, the daily stress you’re under, or the decisions you’re making…quite the opposite, they’re just relying on you to do all of those things well so they can continue to have a job. Personally, we love and care for them…but in the sense of sharing the weight of the business, they aren’t there.
Spouses can often fall under the same category. We recommend total and absolute transparency between an entrepreneur and their husband or wife but recognize that this often isn’t the case. We hear things like “oh, I can’t tell my wife what I’m dealing with…that will just stress her out which stresses me out even more”. (This is why we have marriage counselors that we refer people to when needed…a healthy business can only happen with a healthy entrepreneur, and that includes a healthy marriage).
You can’t share with your spouse, your family, or your employees what you’re up against…so, you continue to bare the weight of the business alone. Again, you can do this for a period of time…but something has to give. Just last week I spoke with a woman who has started to have physical, stress related problems…that didn’t exist before she became an entrepreneur. Not a coincidence, not an isolated incidence.
I’m Afraid…I’ve Risked So Much…I’ve Poured So Much Into This…I Don’t Want To Go Back To A “Job”
Your average entrepreneur doesn’t come to the table with loads of investment dollars, trust fund money, or lottery winnings. Most of them have worked incredibly hard, scraped together enough to get them started, and rely on a modicum of success to take them down stream from there. They maybe haven’t risked it all…but they’ve risked an awful lot.
From startup to “well-oiled machine”, this risk weighs heavy around their neck. And often, it’s not just their risk…if they go out of business, it effects their employees and their families, their customers, the community, and more as it ripples along down the line. It’s a significant burden to bear when times are good, and becomes almost paralyzing when times are…not good.
When so much has been put at risk, a healthy understanding of the situation is not a bad thing. It helps us to work harder, to find solutions, and serves as motivation to work those nights you may not want to. But, there comes a point where we go beyond “healthy understanding” to “no longer making sound choices”.
Fear, in general, causes us to do dumb things. In business, we start doing things like; making rash decisions based on emotions, changing our business model repeatedly to meet what we think individual customers want, hiring when we shouldn’t or firing when we didn’t have to, slashing prices in hopes it turns into sales, jacking our prices in hopes we can make ends meet without customers leaving, and on and on. Or, sometimes, fear causes us not to do the things we should. We don’t hire that next employee, don’t buy that next piece of equipment, don’t invest in landing a major client. Fear can be a jail cell in the prison of “We’re surviving”. It’s not by much, we’re killing ourselves doing it, and we are starting to hate the business we once loved, but we’re getting by.
It’s tough to tell if someone is overwhelmed solely by the decisions they’re making. It’s almost impossible to tell if they’re lonely just by that metric. But, without more than a list of decisions, it’s often quite easy to tell if an entrepreneur is functioning from a “fear” mindset.
As an entrepreneur, are you feeling overwhelmed, lonely, or afraid?
I hope this article accomplishes two things.
First, I hope you find encouragement in knowing that there are many other people trying to do what you’re doing and feeling the exact same way.
You’re not broken.
You’re not failing.
To be clear, normal does not mean these aren’t things you should be working towards improving…while each one of these issues is totally normal, they will totally swallow you up if you don’t fix them.
We’ll add one more bit of encouragement to go along with being normal.
It’s all fixable.
Your struggles are normal, and they can be fixed. Your business should, and can, be a blessing, not a burden.
Secondly, I want you to know we are here to help. If you choose to officially partner with us, that’s great! We can immediately hit the pressure relief valve and give you a chance to breath. Reinforcements are here, you’re going to be okay.
But, even if an official partnership isn’t in the cards, we still want to help. Spend an hour with us getting out of the weeds, deep diving into your business, and identifying the issues holding you back. It is immensely valuable and costs you nothing. Can’t beat that.
You don’t need to do it all yourself. You don’t need to carry the weight all alone. You don’t need to run your business in fear.
To learn more about who Garage Starts is and how we can help you, hit the button below and let’s start a conversation.