The DIY Entrepreneur

Are you a DIY entrepreneur? True confessions – I used to be but have worked hard to become “reformed” in this category. I’m not necessarily saying that the DIY notion is entirely flawed. In fact, there are very healthy aspect to being DIY. Based upon my own experience and what I’ve observed over the years, here’s the profile of a DIY entrepreneur.

In the earlier days of my career, I worked hard to become educated about my industry and all its intricacies. I learned how to replace a toilet, effectively lease apartments, deliver spot-on zero-based budgets and identify great talent. I could get deep in the weeds better than anyone. And this eventually carried through to whatever position I was filling at the time. This level of detail was productive in that I knew what needed to be done in nearly every instance. It also became a trap when I found that other members of my team were sitting back and taking the attitude, “we don’t have to worry about that. Lee will eventually take care of it.”

The DIY entrepreneur often fails to delegate. Sometimes its delegating key functions and at other times its simply anything at all. I can well remember the times that I’d prepare a complicated financial model or call a client because I believed the task could be handled more quickly (and much better) if I just did it myself. While this may have been true at that moment in time, there were other things that I also needed to do that were being pushed to the backburner. I finally realized that this aspect of the DIY entrepreneur was actually counterproductive. I was not prioritizing my time correctly nor was I contributing to the growth of other team members who were being deprived of the opportunity to learn how to handle the tasks I was hoarding.

I also learned that being a DIY entrepreneur was a massive roadblock to scaling our business. No matter how efficient I thought I was, there was no way that I – as one person – could grow a complex enterprise by myself. Further, one of our initiatives is to create a sustainable organization that lasts well beyond the current leadership and perpetuates for generations to come. Hundreds of families – thousands of people – depend upon our family of companies for their livelihood. Growing and scaling the business is critical to our sustainability. Eventually I had to let go of so many of the things that I had handled in the past and trust others to do so instead. I found this to be somewhat liberating . . . but also a bit scary.

Why was it scary? Because I had not previously invested myself in the coaching and mentoring process. This is a common characteristic of the DIY entrepreneur. I know the high-powered leader of another business who has been extremely successful. He’s my age and has done amazing things in his career. On the downside, he’s not a coach or a mentor. He yells and curses at members of his team. His DIY style is that of command and control. I have often wondered what will happen to his company when the day comes that he keels over from a stroke or heart attack. As I have become more and more of a “reformed” DIY entrepreneur, I have found that coaching and mentoring offers amazing rewards – especially as I watch others carve-out success in their own right.

Many DIY entrepreneurs are loathed to share the spotlight. The businessperson previously referenced is always the focus of news articles and industry awards. There’s no question that he’s very accomplished in his field. But rarely do I ever see him compliment those who work for and with him – especially publicly. It thrills me to see members of our team win public recognition. My role now includes being one of the biggest cheerleaders for others in our organization and I love it!

Finally, the DIY entrepreneur may find it difficult to admit mistakes. Why? Because the burden rests entirely upon him or her. When one is in this position, we think we know that our way is absolutely the right way. We aren’t about to seek advice from others and when things don’t work out as planned, we have a tendency to place the blame elsewhere. Perhaps asking others for their thoughts and ideas is a signal of weakness in the mind of the DIY entrepreneur. As a result, we plunge ahead fearlessly and tirelessly . . . right off the proverbial cliff. Entrepreneurs who are truly self-confident and comfortable in their own skin don’t have a problem admitting they screwed up. They welcome and embrace the counsel of members of their team.

If you are a DIY entrepreneur there is hope for you. The “reform” process involves learning to prioritize, delegate, coach, mentor, trust others, share the spotlight and be willing to admit mistakes.

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.

Bedlam, Chaos and the 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 the vast majority 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 big 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 of 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 provide assistance.

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 a pretty 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.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 109 – Super Powers.

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.