Some years ago, I started my own business. Prior to that, I had had a two year stint where I didn’t do any major thing – career wise – because I was heavily involved in altruistic projects.
Towards the end of that period, I started to get calls from clients to handle some jobs. I executed those jobs, and others began to come in. I started getting briefs from much bigger companies, and then began to build my business. I loved what I was doing so much, I started to mentally expand. Initially, I was merely executing the jobs, but then I started to consider permanently hiring and importing machinery – instead of outsourcing. I had already begun making contact with notable companies. I felt alive and I knew I could build big.
Then, I got a job offer from someone I had worked for very briefly. I turned it down because my business was just taking off, and my prospects were looking extremely good. She persisted, offering a contract job of three times a week. Everytime I mentally projected, I experienced a sense of dread and a ‘dead-end’ feeling. However, due to her persistence, and that of the person who initially referred me, I decide to accept the offer.
The thought of an extra income on the side also contributed to my final decision.
I reasoned that I could easily handle both jobs without any being affected.
I was very wrong.
I also reasoned that I would be there for a maximum of six months.
I was there for two years.
I hated that job and would have left earlier but (apart from other factors) without realizing it, I had slowly became dependent on the constant monthly stipend – a disastrous addiction for anyone desiring to become an entrepreneur. I had forgotten that I had made about twenty times that amount in previous jobs on my own.
At the end of the two years, I was back to where I started, and I had nothing to show for it – except experience and a little saved money.
Coincidentally, I met two of my colleagues in the industry, one of whom had initially advised me not to accept the offer. Their businesses had blossomed and expanded, and both owned their own offices in a high-brow area of Lagos.
But worst of all, I had lost my zeal and passion for innovation and creativity, and I had become a mentally, emotionally, and psychologically depleted zombie.
I had lost focus.
As a budding entrepreneur, it is deception to think that you can handle two businesses at the same time, when you haven’t grown one to stand firmly on its own. You can do two things at the same time, but you cannot focus on two things at the same time. It’s the case of chasing two rats simultaneously. You will catch none.
Remember the principle of the magnifying glass? Fire occurs when the sun’s rays concentrate through the glass onto a spot. That spot slowly heats up, and then ignites.
That’s how a business is. You focus on it, avoiding distractions, and stay there until it ignites. Even after it ignites, you keep your focus until that flame becomes a raging inferno. And then, you can begin another fire from the one you created.
How do you do this?
• Have a clear cut vision of where your business is headed. Not the vague ‘I would like to make plenty of money’ kind of vision. Be specific about what you want. Where do you see your business in the next 1 year? 2 years? 5 years? How much turnover do you desire to make? What plans should you put in place to achieve this? Will this ________ add to your business (fill in the blank)? This will enable you easily determine whether certain ‘opportunities’ will help you and your business in the long run. A man without a vision is at the mercy of the man with one – Anointed Enoh.
• Have a passion for your business. You cannot focus for long if you don’t love what you do. It is your passion that will make you push through when things don’t seem to go in the direction you want. External factors are subject to change; Clients come and go; costs rise and fall; you work on a job for six nights, and the client changes his mind on the seventh morning; there is pressure to meet looming deadlines; clients are still promising to pay up after 3 months; your workers make a disastrous error on a job to be delivered in 24 hours…ad infinitum.
Trust me, the only thing that will make you continue in that business – irrespective of these factors – is your passion for what you do. I cannot emphasize this enough: Love Your work.
• Always think long-term instead of short-term. If you are not looking to build, or you are thinking ‘quick money’ and just looking for cash to get by, then by all means, you can hop from one opportunity to another. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you are thinking ‘Legacy’ or ‘Empire’ – particularly in your field – you would need to take decisions based on your long term view, and avoid seemingly attractive distractions.
• Learn to say ‘No’ – ‘No’ to quick-money schemes, emotional pressure, well meaning but diversionary advice, partnerships with people who have a different vision from yours, the desire of approval from people you look up to, the pressure to quit when things get tough etc.
Stays focused, and always remember: ‘The ‘One Thing’ people are irresistible (F.B. Meyers).
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