We are in an entrepreneurial revolution. There has been an epic shift in people starting new businesses. People leave their jobs, either by choice, or by being laid off. With big ambitions, they pursue their passions and start a business. The unfortunate truth is that most small businesses fail. In the next 12 months alone, 600,000 new small businesses will be created. By the end of the year, more than half will have to close up shop forever.
A recent report by the National Small Business Association showed that more than 41 percent of entrepreneurs are concerned about the survival of their small businesses. None of those numbers feel good to me—and I’d guess they don’t feel good to you, either. I agree with the NSBA that “more can be done to ensure entrepreneurship remains a viable, attainable option for every American.” I strongly believe entrepreneurship is the answer to many of the problems America faces.
So what turns the dream of entrepreneurship into a nightmare time after time?
It’s called chaos and it is killing small businesses everywhere. What causes chaos? What are the symptoms? All-nighters at the office. Missed Little League games. Cold dinners and disappointed families waiting for you at home. Does this sound like you? These are all symptoms of chaos.
All seems to be going well for the small business owner until they get their first customer. That’s when chaos moves in and starts to take over. Before they can come up for air they’ve been sucked under by the business.
Don’t give up. There’s a better way to run a small business. You can grow a successful small business and still have a life, if:
- You get your mind-set right
- You get your systems right
Over the years I have talked to thousands of small business owners and, trust me, they have all experienced chaos at some point. Scott and Eric Martineau, my co-founders and I, experienced this chaos ourselves growing our business, Infusionsoft. Today, Infusionsoft has more than 20,000 small business users. We received nearly $20 million in venture capital. We have made the Inc. 500 list four consecutive years. Our culture is thriving. Sure, we still have moments where chaos creeps up. That’s normal. But you have to confront it, identify the root cause and put solutions in place that get you back on track.
In our new book, Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy, we talk about a six-step formula that will help you conquer the chaos so that you can focus on what’s most important—growing your business. The moment we got a handle on these six steps was the moment we went from a struggling start-up to a multimillion-dollar, fast-growth software company.
1) Build your emotional capital. Emotional capital is the currency you use to wake up every day and fight the battle. It’s the passion, enthusiasm and positive outlook that propel you through your day, keeping you driven to achieve your goals. It’s the balancing of work, family, and emotional and physical health.
2) Practice disciplined optimism. If you are going to survive the chaos, and survive it well, you must be prepared to handle all the pain and unpleasantness that comes with running a small business. It starts with (1) an undying belief that your small business will achieve the success you have envisioned, while at the same time, (2) confronting the brutal facts of your current reality, and (3) attacking those brutal facts because you want to, not because you have to.
3) Assert your entrepreneurial independence. You decide the fate of your business. If you don’t believe something is going to work, no one else will, either. Self-doubt leads to seeking approval and advice. At some point you must believe and trust your convictions, and that means not asking for so much advice. One of the reasons business owners seek outside input is because their objectives are not clear. If you haven’t decided the direction in which you want to take your business, figure it out.
4) Centralize and organize your stuff. As an entrepreneur, you have an especially complicated situation. Corporations have hundreds, even thousands of people to do the same job you’re trying to accomplish on your own. You’re the boss, sales team, marketing department, tech support, customer service and the janitorial staff. If you are anything like we were, you’ve got information, reports, records and financial statements everywhere. To build a solid business foundation and get one step further out of the chaos, you’ve got to centralize your operations.
5) Tap into the magical power of follow-up. The moment the Martineau brothers and I realized how important follow-up was to our business was the moment that accelerated our move out of chaos and quickly transformed our business into a multimillion-dollar company. When you fail to follow up, you’re losing out on incredible opportunities and causing yourself more pain and frustration. You’re stunting your growth and prolonging your partnership with chaos.
6) Burn the to-do list and move from manual to automated. Automation is the key factor to saving you time, money and manual labor. But automation also tends to be the one principle that is missing from most small businesses. Automation is intentional and purposeful and it will propel the entrepreneur out of chaos into liberation. With automation, you get the benefits of achievement without activity, productivity without busy-ness. Big businesses have learned to automate everything possible. But most small businesses are havens for manual, grunt labor that wastes time, costs money and enslaves the business owner to the business.
Taking these six steps will change your business forever–for the better–just as it changed ours.