The Secret Life of Entrepreneurs- Part 4

the secret life of entrepreneurs

Part IV- Taking the Bull by the Horns

We are never quite prepared for all it takes to manage a small business, even if we think we are ready. Most entrepreneurs start with good measure of confidence anyway, and this is good. We will need it later. Starting a small business is like the time when the neighbor kid talked you into climbing to the top of that huge tree in your back yard. Getting up there was fine. It was the getting down part that was the problem. We did not stop to think it through prior to starting the ascent.

But if you are good at what you do, if you do what you say you will do, and if you are a reasonably congenial person, you will have plenty of work to do. If you are great at what you do, great at delivering the goods, and your customers end up becoming your friends? Your business machine may not be able to keep up with demand. Believe me, that is the best problem you can have as far as problems go. But few of us imagine a day when we are pressed beyond our ability. It is when you are looking at a to-do list so long that you will never die that many of us become workaholics. Willing, yes. Others turn to better management practices and delegation. Time management is one of those practices–an entrepreneurial skill that is more basic than basic. It is essential for success.

In the early years of our business, we were cranking at full speed. I was arm wrestling each day into submission. We hired the right people and had a team with real synergy. It was exciting and scary to see three months of work on the schedule. In my industry, that is a ton of work. There was not enough of me to go around. I had just signed up for my third time management class, thinking this one was surely the magic bullet. I was furiously taking notes as the professor told us the only reason we experience chaos is because we do not take each day by the horns. I was determined to face that bull. 

That was when Todd, our right-hand man, did not show up for work. It was not like him to do that, and he did not even call. Later, we tried calling him. No one seemed to know where he was. No one had seen him since the day before. Shortly after, we found out Todd had rolled his car down a deep embankment during the night. He had broken nearly every bone in his face, broken his back along with several other bones, and had lain in the ditch all night unattended because he was out of sight. Fortunately, someone saw him that next morning and he was rushed to the hospital. By the time he got there, his situation was perilous. Doctors were unsure he would make it. I am thankful to say he did. He recovered beyond what anyone could have imagined. Though he no longer works for us, today he is a productive and talented artist and has been featured on several TV shows for his skill.

No one prepares for things like this. We had difficulty fulfilling orders while Todd was lying in a hospital bed. We sobbed. We were grieving and preoccupied while Todd was fighting for his life.

Here are some lessons we learned during this difficult course in The School of Hard Knocks. Truly they are lessons that we will never forget:

Have you ever questioned whether you had more time than money? Or more money than time? Let me settle it for you right now. You have more money than time, even if you have very little money. Time is the most valuable asset you will ever have. No other asset can come close. You can get more money. You cannot get more time.

Next, no matter how much I try to do, nor how efficient I get, I cannot live 48 hours in 24. Frankly, do we want to live our lives double speed? Are we not here on earth to experience each day to the fullest? Life is like a gym bag. It is small. You cannot fit everything in it. You have to carefully decide what goes into the bag, and consciously choose what you will leave out. You cannot fit more in just because you want to. You must choose. 

Lastly, the words from my  time management professor were ringing in my ears. Grabbing the chaos by the horns? Seriously, after Todd’s accident, I saw this as a joke. I faced the professor’s bull but this time recognized it as bull. We are not in charge. We are not super human. We cannot always grab the day by the horns. Not all of life can be controlled. The serenity prayer is in order:

  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

Please do not misunderstand my message. Self-discipline and time management are extremely important. But rather than filling your day to the brim, make sure you are filling your day with the right stuff. This is your life. Do not allow your business to rob it from you. Make sure you are living each day and fully present in it. When we realize all of our days are limited, all that is truly important becomes crystal clear.

Join us next week for the final installment of The Secret Life of Entrepreneurs.


Why do we at etc!graphics inc, a graphic design company, care about the way you manage your business?  Because your graphics will always reflect your internal management. The clearer your vision, the more lucid your marketing, and the better your visual graphics. Join us all this month as we share ways to help your small business sustain and grow in a crowded marketplace. Etc!Graphics is devoted to helping you, the small business owner, think like a marketer.

You can read the first three articles in this series right here at Thincblog.