When people find out that I am an entrepreneur, they often ask for advice about starting a business. This is a loaded question, one that I usually flip into a better question: are you ready to lead a business?
The hardest part about starting something is that all of the responsibility shifts from you working on someone else’s ideas to you working on your own ideas. I can tell you first hand, it’s way easier working on someone else’s ideas because often you are executing on a plan that has been laid out for your. Or, you are working towards a goal that’s been given to you. If it’s the wrong plan or the wrong goal, it’s easier to deal with.
But when it’s your goal, and your plan, you carry all of the responsibility. There is no one to point at and say, “I was just doing what I was asked.”
Now, this is a terrible mindset to have because failing to take responsibility for your actions and outcomes won’t get you anywhere. As a leader, one of the things I never want to hear my employees say is “my boss won’t let me…” This phrase is a cop out. When someone says this, what they really mean is “I don’t want to take responsibility for my idea and the outcome if it fails.”
If you are thinking about starting a business, you need kill this way of thinking. Your need to adopt an attitude of initiative and responsibility, and the only way to do this is through action.
While at your current position, you have to look for ways to create value, make things better, and take action towards that end. I am not advocating anyone to go rogue and do whatever they want. You need to get your job done to 110% and on top of that work hard to understand the goals and vision of your organization so that anything extra you contribute is sure to benefit the organization and get you noticed. (Seth Godin talks about this in his must read book, Linchpin.)
If you fail, you need to be prepared to take responsibility for your decisions and actions. You have no one to blame because you decided on your own to act on your ideas. If you succeed, you have to give all of the credit away to the company and anyone who helped you succeed.
Do this a few times to condition yourself and build up emotional strength. Learn what it means and how it feels to take action against your ideas. Learn how it feels too fail and try again. Learn how it feels to give all of the credit away.
Until you can do this, you are not ready to lead a business.
I was the second employee at a startup and helped lead the company from $1M to $10M in annual sales in under 4 years. I practiced this method, taking responsibility and taking action for the entire time I was there. I failed and I won. And when I branched out on my own, I still underestimated the toll it took on my mind and emotions to do this for myself. But had I not received this advice and put it into practice, there is no way I would have been tough enough to lead my company.
So be patient. Practice now for the day you step out on your own. You’ll be happy that you did.