The Chaotic and Slammed Entrepreneur

Tony owns a five-year old company that produces several different flavors of a healthy energy bar. Business is booming and the company is flirting with profitability. The business will soon reach a scale where profitability is consistent. Sales have been growing at 50% per year and the team has now expanded to 75 employees. The production facility runs two shifts and plans are in the works for a third. Sounds like a dream situation – right?

Here’s a look at the other side of Tony’s operation. A piece of machinery in the plant seems to be on its last legs with periodic breakdowns at the most inopportune times. Capital is needed to add two more pieces of equipment to accommodate the planned third shift. Tony’s not exactly sure what the source of those funds will be. His marketing director quit, and the position hasn’t yet been filled. Also, the company needs to hire 15 new employees for the upcoming third shift – but it’s been very hard to find people that are willing to work all night long. On top of all that, a product recall may be in the offing due to a problem with the packaging. Tony has been working 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week for months without a break. He’s stressed and badly needs some time off. But he’s worried that if he steps away – even for a long weekend – the business might go off the rails. Tony is experiencing bedlam, chaos and is overwhelmingly slammed.

If you are an entrepreneur, can you relate to this not-so-hypothetical scenario? Everything is go-go-go and seems totally out of control. We find ourselves spending most of our time working “in” the business rather than “on” the business. We know we probably need to add another key staff position or two to allow us to work more strategically, but we worry that profitability and cash flow might be too tight if we do. We figure we can “muscle through” for a few more months and eventually the profit picture will improve to the point that bringing on the key personnel will be easier. Unfortunately, the “few more months” stretches out a bit longer than expected (or desired).

What we are solving is not how to cope with the chaos, bedlam, and stress, but how to move out of this mode as quickly as possible. Every minute we spend mired in this mess is another minute that is added to the ledger of total frustration and wheel-spinning. We all know the eventual outcome of this – a loss of passion, burnout, health issues and potentially much worse.

Step OneStop the madness. Seriously, stop and step away for 24 hours. Without a clear head we can’t fix a thing. We don’t check our e-mail; we don’t call the office; we go dark and do something – anything – that will turn our attention away from the bedlam, the chaos, and the stress.

Step TwoAssess. We catalog all the pieces to this crazy jigsaw puzzle. What is working and what isn’t. What are the biggest issues we are facing? This is not a time to find solutions. We have a single focus and that is to take stock of our situation.

Step ThreePrioritize. Once we have identified all of our issues, we next prioritize the swamp. In other words, which alligator is the largest and most likely to eat us and which is the smallest.

Step FourDelegate. Look, we can’t do this all by ourselves. If we have key members of our team that can help, we bring them into the picture at this point. If we don’t have key people, we may need to turn to outside consultants to assist.

Step FivePlan. We take each issue and create a project plan in collaboration with our key team members or consultants. The plan needs to take a step-by-step approach that identifies what resources will be needed for successful implementation as well as a specific timeline to get there.

Step SixExecute. With a plan in hand and the workload delegated, it’s the entrepreneur’s job to pull the trigger and turn everyone loose to execute. Then he or she must monitor the activity and hold people accountable for the desired results.

You may be thinking that this is an obvious process. Except that it’s not. When we are stuck on the treadmill of bedlam, chaos, and stress, it’s hard if not impossible, to rise above it all and take the six steps I just outlined. Discipline is needed to stay on course – that’s another responsibility of the entrepreneur. Gradually sanity will be restored, and our enterprise will hum like a well-oiled machine.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The WUONPS Entrepreneur

Have you ever found yourself in what I call a “wired-up overwhelmed near-panic spiral – WUONPS?” You wake up at 3:30 AM with this gnawing feeling – you are not worried about anything in particular, but that feeling is there. You cannot go back to sleep, so you get up and make some coffee. You surf the internet while drinking three cups of coffee. Then you hit the drive-through at Starbucks on the way to work and get a Triple Frappasomething with an extra double shot of cappuccino. It has been consumed before you reach the first stoplight. By the time you arrive at the office the feeling is welling up. With few more cups of coffee, a glance at 75 new e-mails and a minor crisis dropped in your lap, you have now reached the pinnacle of WUONPS. Oh, and it is only 8:11 AM. What to do?

The first step is to recognize the state that we are in. The quicker we can do this the faster we can move toward resolution. When we push on without stepping back our feelings cascade and we end up in a spiral. In aviation parlance, we are now in full-fledged crash and burn mode. When we recognize that we are headed into WUONPS we need to stop what we are doing IMMEDIATELY. Then we need to go and find a quiet place for decompression.

Once in our quiet place it is important to sit with our feet flat on the floor and hands in our lap with our eyes closed. We take a deep breath and let it out slowly. We do it again and again. Focusing on our breathing is a sure-fire method of calming ourselves. Deep breathing delivers increased amounts of oxygen to the brain. Livestrong.com says this: “Breathing slowly and mindfully activates the hypothalamus, connected to the pituitary gland in the brain, to send out neurohormones and trigger a relaxation response in the body. The hypothalamus links the nervous system to the endocrine system, which secretes the hormones that regulate all activities throughout the body.” Scientific explanation or not, this process definitely works.

Once we have begun to “unwire” through deep breathing, we might undertake the ROY G BIV exercise. ROY G BIV is an acronym for the seven colors of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. In our mind’s eye we see each of the colors of the rainbow traveling from the center of the earth through the bottom of our feet, up our leg, across our midsection, down the other leg and back to the center of the earth. We do this slowly and intentionally with each color of the rainbow. The purpose of ROY G BIV is to ground ourselves. I know that when I have been in a state of WUONPS, I have a weird free-floating out-of-control feeling. ROY G BIV eliminates this feeling.

After spending ten or fifteen minutes deep breathing and grounding ourselves, we are now ready to move back into the day. But first we should review our goals and objectives for the day. We spend a few moments with our “To Do” list and make sure we are clear on what we intend to accomplish for the rest of the day. Then we move forward with a new purpose and a new attitude. And . . . we avoid any additional caffeine for the rest of the day. We can also eliminate WUONPS altogether if we exercise regularly (daily for me); limit our consumption of caffeine and maintain a daily practice of meditation or quiet time.

Recognizing WUONPS is critical. Breaking the spiral with deep breathing and ROY G BIV is paramount. Recommitting to the day with a clear understanding of what we intend to accomplish puts us back on the calm and productive path we desire.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

WUONPS

Have you ever found yourself in what I call a “wired-up overwhelmed near-panic spiral – WUONPS?” You wake up at 3:30 AM with this gnawing feeling – you’re not worried about anything in particular, but that feeling is there. You can’t go back to sleep so you get up and make some coffee. You surf the internet while drinking three cups of coffee. Then you hit the drive-through at Starbucks on the way to work and get a Triple Frappasomething with an extra double shot of cappuccino. It’s been consumed before you reach the first stoplight. By the time you arrive at the office the feeling is welling up. With few more cups of coffee, a glance at 75 new e-mails and a minor crisis dropped in your lap, you’ve now reached the pinnacle of WUONPS. Oh, and it’s only 8:11 AM. What to do?

The first step is to recognize the state that we’re in. The quicker we can do this the faster we can move toward resolution. When we push on without stepping back our feelings cascade and we end up in a spiral. In aviation parlance, we’re now in full-fledged crash and burn mode. When we recognize that we’re headed into WUONPS we need to stop what we’re doing IMMEDIATELY. Then we need to go and find a quiet place for decompression.

Once in our quiet place it’s important to sit with our feet flat on the floor and hands in our lap with our eyes closed. We take a deep breath and let it out slowly. We do it again and again. Focusing on our breathing is a sure-fire method of calming ourselves. Deep breathing delivers increased amounts of oxygen to the brain. Livestrong.com says this: “Breathing slowly and mindfully activates the hypothalamus, connected to the pituitary gland in the brain, to send out neurohormones and trigger a relaxation response in the body. The hypothalamus links the nervous system to the endocrine system, which secretes the hormones that regulate all activities throughout the body.” Scientific explanation or not, this process definitely works.

Once we have begun to “unwire” through deep breathing, we might undertake the ROY G BIV exercise. ROY G BIV is an acronym for the seven colors of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. In our mind’s eye we see each of the colors of the rainbow traveling from the center of the earth through the bottom of our feet, up our leg, across our midsection, down the other leg and back to the center of the earth. We do this slowly and intentionally with each color of the rainbow. The purpose of ROY G BIV is to ground ourselves. I know that when I’ve been in a state of WUONPS, I have a weird free-floating out-of-control feeling. ROY G BIV eliminates this feeling.

After spending ten or fifteen minutes deep breathing and grounding ourselves we are now ready to move back into the day. But first we should review our goals and objectives for the day. We spend a few moments with our “To Do” list and make sure we are clear on what we intend to accomplish for the rest of the day. Then we move forward with a new purpose and a new attitude. And . . . we avoid any additional caffeine for the rest of the day. We can also eliminate WUONPS altogether if we exercise regularly (daily for me); limit our consumption of caffeine, and maintain a daily practice of meditation or quiet time.

Recognizing WUONPS is critical. Breaking the spiral with deep breathing and ROY G BIV is paramount. Recommitting to the day with a clear understanding of what we intend to accomplish puts us back on the calm and productive path we desire.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Cheetah_3

Later

Question: I have come to the realization that I’m a procrastinator and it’s really impacting my career. How do I conquer this affliction?

Answer: We procrastinate for several reasons. Three of the more common include simply not wanting to do something; we don’t know how to do it, or we view the task as too big and daunting. It’s important to understand why we are reluctant to tackle whatever it is that needs to be accomplished. Then in clinical fashion we can resolve what is holding us back.

Let’s take the toughest one first – we simply don’t want to do something. Everyone has things they just don’t like doing. As a child, one of my chores was cleaning up the dog poop in the backyard – the product of my parent’s penchant for raising Chihuahuas. Because I was conscripted and had no choice in the matter, I learned to get this nasty responsibility out of the way in the morning before I went to school. As a result I got to eat; was able to play after school, and avoided the wrath of my parents. Fast forward to today and the lesson I learned is to resolve to do the things I don’t want to do as early in the day as possible and focus on the benefits of accomplishment.

A lack of knowledge or understanding can cause us to put off something that needs doing. The simple realization that this is why we are procrastinating can be the kick-start that we need to move forward. We determine if we need clarification from another person. Or perhaps we require technical information that can come through further study. A number of years ago I asked one of my newer colleagues to prepare what I thought was a fairly elementary analysis. Days went by, then a week. When I inquired as to the reason for what I thought was her procrastination, she was embarrassed to admit that she had no idea how to create an Excel spreadsheet.

What do we do about something we are avoiding because it looks so enormous and foreboding we don’t even want to start. Remember the old adage about eating an elephant one bite at a time? Well, it applies here. I am constantly dealing with massive and complicated projects and found long ago that the only way to keep from being overwhelmed is through obsessive planning. Break the task down into manageable components; organize them logically; plot them on a timeline, and execute. This is the only way for me to beat avoidance and stay sane.

The enemy of procrastination is determination. Determination as to the root cause of our avoidance, and then our determination to take the steps necessary to successfully complete the project or task at hand.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

chihuahua-elephant