What if I told you that structure gives you space? Hmm I know, it sounds paradoxical right? And for those of you who, like me, value freedom, creativity & independence, the idea of structure, guidelines and systems can feel a little stifling.
So I figured it might be useful if I shared my take on structure.. and I guess it starts with rules.
Most entrepreneurs have ended up as entrepreneurs because they didn’t want to follow anyone else’s rules. They’ve probably broken a whole heap of rules along the way. Rules set by former bosses (you must sit there from 9 am till 5 pm), rules set by society (you must have a regular, stable income) and rules set by peers, colleagues & friends (work sucks, none of us like our jobs, just deal with it).
And so, for most of us, we began our journey with a commitment to break the rules. We did so with that slightly defiant slightly naive confidence that a lot of newbie entrepreneurs have.
And then normally, a year or so in, we tend to feel a little broken. Yep, it was awesome to break all those rules… but it turns out we don’t have much to show for it. Ironically we escaped from the rat race of working 9–5 only to find ourselves working 7 days a week. We were thrilled by the idea of being our own boss, and now we dream about those lucky days when someone else handed us a pay cheque at the end of every week. And those friends who felt comforted that you were all in it together? Now they feel a million miles away in their cubicles …. and although they support you & everything you do, sometimes they just don’t get it.
And that’s where many entrepreneurs end up. In holy-smokes-it’s-way-harder-than-I-thought land. We’re rule-less, we’re free and we’re in charge, but we’re exhausted. Mentally, physically and quite often, financially.
It’s normal, at this stage, to consider quitting. To look back at everything you left behind through rose-tinted glasses and wonder whether perhaps, life would just be easier if you worked for someone else again.
But I’d like to offer you a suggestion. One that might make you laugh, but will almost certainly make life a little easier again. You know all those rules, systems & structure that you ran away from? What if you actually integrated some of them into your own business? Stick with me here. I’m not talking about the ridiculous stuff (meetings about meetings haha). I’m talking about sorting through the chaos and actually implementing some boundaries & guidelines of your own.
In effect, I like to think of this stage as growing up. Yep, it ain’t all that sexy, but wow, things will really start to move forward when you commit to it. There are three elements that make all the difference :
Brand Clarity: Knowing who you are, as a brand, is everything. It enables you to package, position & price with confidence. It gives you the courage (and the grit) to sidestep the competition & go all in on your niche. It means you’ll become known for something, you’ll become the ‘go-to’ for something …. which means you’ll start getting some serious traction.
Epic Systems: The better systems you have, the more freedom you’ll experience. Trust me, they only way my business survives when I’m on the road is from being an insane geek when it comes to systems. I’m talking project management software, scheduling, accounting, data backup, client onboarding, email templates and a kick ass method of handling all the to-do lists. All the boring sounding stuff that actually seems pretty damned exciting when you realise the impact it will have.
Serious Boundaries: Yep, it all comes back to those pesky rules. Turns out they do have their advantages — but only if you write them. Business boundaries mean knowing what to say yes & no to (that’s why brand clarity is at the top of this list… because you need that before you can make the rules). Boundaries mean building a business based on integrity & respect. Boundaries mean clear expectations all round, which means happier bosses (that’s you) and happier clients/customers.
So how’s about this... Why don’t you make a list (come on, I know you love them as much as I do — especially on a fresh post-it note)…. and put 3 headers on it: Brand clarity, epic systems & serious boundaries. And underneath each one, make a list of the things you need to do to get these areas of your business rocking. Then, get your hustle on, and start working through the list. Congratulations, you're becoming a grown-up entrepreneur !