We don’t rise to our opportunities; we fall to the level of our preparation.
Many entrepreneurs start the week with bold strides: they launch a new Facebook ad campaign or send a new product logo to their graphic designer. They do things that move the needle. By 2pm, they’ve completed their checklist and launched a brand new service…
…and then their toilet gets clogged.
The entrepreneur looks around and asks, “Who’s going to fix this toilet?”
(a tumbleweed rolls through)
And quickly realizes, “It’s me. I’m the only person willing and able to use a plunger.”
So the entrepreneur spends the next three hours plunging a toilet. At five, he goes home and thinks, “What a crappy day.”
The next day, the entrepreneur comes into work a bit earlier, and carries an extra coffee. Before the other staff arrives, the boss makes more solid moves: approving yesterday’s art, responding to a partnership offer, and scheduling two new clients.
Then the staff arrives and says, “The copier is out of ink.”
The entrepreneur disengages from the valuable work–work that generates $500 per hour–and drives to the ink store, texts back and forth with the office staff to figure out which ink cartridge to buy, and drives back. An hour later, the printer is working but the owner is not.
On a grander scale, a Founder might launch an ad campaign that attracts 50 new clients. The clients sign up for a six-week makeover. The books show a huge uptick in revenue, and all signs point to growth.
But six weeks later, all of those clients are gone. Retention was next to zero. And it’s all because the Founder has tried to build Step Three before solving Step One.
Here’s an example:
An entrepreneur who self-identifies as a “Farmer” tries to cut back her hours. But she hasn’t replaced herself in the Sales role, so when she takes time off, revenue plummets. She scrambles back into the sales seat. But unfortunately, she’s now convinced that the business can’t run without her, and will think twice before ever taking time away again.
In other words, she jumped to Step 3 before fully completing Step 1. She abdicated responsibility instead of delegating tasks.
Another example: an owner decides to boost his revenues with a huge Facebook ad campaign. It takes him weeks to set up, and he spends time closely monitoring ad spend and placement every day. This work is necessary, but it takes him away from other places. He doesn’t greet clients at the bakery counter every morning anymore; he’s replaced himself with a minimum-wage teenager who doesn’t really like being awake at 6am to powder the donuts. His old SEED clients start to miss him, and then they start to leave.
The new clients coming in are nice, but fleeting. They show up once and never come back, because a premium coffee is just a novelty for them. And they don’t really like the teenager at the front counter, either. Rather than fully replace himself at the front counter before moving to a marketing strategy, he went after the “quick money” and lost his base.
One step forward, one step back: that’s no way to run a business. And you know that.
The reasons your business has ups and downs is because you haven’t backfilled the “downs”. Until you solve the problems that pull you backward, your march forward will look like a salsa dance: fast-moving feet, smiling face, body going nowhere.
Before jumping ahead from one stage of entrepreneurialism to the next, you must completely replace yourself at your current stage.
You must solve the Founder problems before tackling Farmer problems. Don’t plant seeds until the ground is fertile.