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Puzzle Me This

As puzzles are back in vogue these days, I thought this might be of interest. Unfortunately, I’ve only had the opportunity to complete one over the past few weeks, but several themes rang true as I worked on it. Puzzling (is that what we call it?) makes you go through several stages, much like the business circle of life.

At first, puzzles are exciting. You find all the outside pieces, you put the four corners in a special place.

Startups are exciting!
You have a new mission, it’s constantly evolving, you get to make things up as you go along. The world of possibilities is endless.

You compile the outer ring and you start to feel like you can really do this.

You’ve got your first clients.
You are starting to hit your stride on marketing and hiring. You start to fill in some infrastructure. You hire your first BD person, your first C-Suite.

Then, the grind hits. You must keep at the puzzle. What seemed easy 100 pieces ago is suddenly very monotonous (for me, it’s always the sky portion!). The buzz wears off.

Months bleed into years.
Your offerings may change or expand, as does your client base. But the excitement starts to leave and the magnitude of what you want to accomplish and how hard you have to work hits you.

You find yourself trying the same pieces in the same spots, over and over. And they don’t fit. Yet you keep trying, expecting different answers. You find that you can’t see the forest for the trees (or the entire picture for the one area you are working on).

You lose focus on what’s important.
You can get caught up in the tactical, day to day without your eye on the exit plan. You may retain team members that you had from the beginning but no longer fit or they aren’t in the right positions. You know you have to pivot but you aren’t quite sure how. You feel like you are stuck in one place.

Through it all, you keep trudging along and the puzzle slowly comes together. Big chunks get done and you start to feel accomplished. You feel like you are working on the big picture and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll get stuck a few times, but you know that you will make it through. Pieces that you didn’t think would fit actually do. All it took was a different perspective.

Did you read that? All it took was a different perspective.

Right team in the right places.
Corporate culture that aligns. Everyone is focused on the mission and works together.

Finally, you complete the puzzle. A sense of reward, a sense of accomplishment. In my case, I turn it over to someone else to put it away, not wanting to personally break up what I worked so hard on.

This is different for everyone.
It may be the big sale, it could be a purchase of another company, it could be an ESOP or Management Buy Out. You could decide to step down as the CEO and let someone else run it.

And then you consider your next puzzle.

Or your next opportunity.
Entrepreneurs at heart always have another company they’d like to start or will serve on boards or as advisors for those that want to start their own thing. We are a community that pays it forward.

What stage of the puzzle are you in with your current company? If you’re in the “grind” or “focus” section and you’re looking to get to the next phase we’re poised to help you prep. Change IS coming and preparing for it now is your best course of action. We have virtual support while you need it and on-the-ground professionals when the new-normal resumes. Contact us, and let’s discuss.

Dancing with Disaster

I recently heard of the closing of a friend’s gastro brewpub, and it stirred more in me than I’d like to admit.  As an entrepreneur, business owner, and someone with insight into various client’s businesses- this cuts deep.  The idea that even with a great idea, great product, and great clientele that you can still go out of business strikes at the core.  We often look at businesses that fail as having a fundamental issue – whether in delivery, pricing, staffing, or technical capabilities.  We look for a reason as that makes it easier to process.  We tell ourselves that we won’t fail because we don’t have that specific problem (or we’ll fix it if we do).  We rationalize how others may fail but that we, as business owners, won’t.

Yet, good companies close.  Good companies with great people who worked their asses off will still fail.  This harsh reality is hard for us to process, as we must admit that it could happen to us.  We could do all the right things and still fail.  That’s the nature of business.  It’s risky as hell, and sometimes timing and luck are the most important determining factors of success or failure.  That feels out of our control.  That feels arbitrary.  Those are feelings that can keep us up at night.

Give an entrepreneur a problem, and they will solve it.  Give them the luck of the draw odds, and it can feel daunting.  But yet…they persist.  Starry-eyed new business owners launch new endeavors every day, no matter the economy, no matter the conditions.  Never underestimate the power of the good idea and the drive of an entrepreneur.  One thing you can do is give them your faith, give them your support, and give them the benefit of the doubt.  They are fighting against the current, and while some will absolutely rocket to their success, some will inevitably sink.  Yet they at least dared to take the leap of faith and try.

In the spirit of support and faith, tag your favorite, hard-working, business buds below. We could all use a little extra oomph on our journeys to the top.