Struggles emerge, sure, but then the scene cuts to the end when the cows are streaming into the loading dock, money is changing hands and the sun’s setting as the whiskey is poured.
Yeah right. One year in, I now think Entrepreneurs are farmers. Or construction crews.
My dad was a hog farmer. Growing up, I thought there was nothing he couldn’t do. The lights went out in the cow barn; he fixed the wiring. Voila, let there be light. The well wasn’t working; he climbed down into it and tinkered. Water flowed again.
He sat at his little desk upstairs in our farmhouse and did math, hoping the income overcame the outlay. He made calls and found deals on hog feed. He drove to the Co-op and bought all manner of gadgets, nails, screws and washers. He clipped piglet teeth, gave shots to goats and pigs and cows, grew crops, baled hay, mucked shit, drove tractors, and showed us kids how to birth a piglet or baby goat that wasn’t coming out easily.
He did it all. Vet visits were rare. I don’t remember anybody coming in to fix anything, except if something was really wrong with a tractor or combine. What farmer can afford to not do it himself?
I never expected that entrepreneurship would be a less dirty, less gory version of farming.
A thousand tasks lie at hand. They say you can do a task yourself, hire someone else to do it, or learn to do it. But how many startups have a chunk of change to throw at someone else? It makes sense to hire somebody to do swiftly what would take me a week to learn. But then again, if I’m gonna do it more than once, maybe I need to spend the week instead of the cash.
I’m becoming a jack-of-all-trades. I miss being a master of two, coaching and writing, which is what I really love. Learning to build a website is like rollerskating on gravel.
But I’m doing it. I’m a farmer --- I mean entrepreneur – now. I gotta set all these structures up, and learn how, and figure out what’s important, and in what order. All this to create a structure in which my coaching and writing can flourish.
That’s where entrepreneurship is like a construction crew. Did you read about Blake Lively’s decision to shut down her company Preserve? I appreciate her openness in admitting that they weren’t ready, that they’re pulling back to get enough structure in place. I needed to hear that. My inner cowboy was whooping “heck yeah!” and I was setting up to launch a new program I was excited about but not ready for. Lively’s story stopped me.
I paused. I took off the pressure, stepped back, worked on the program and am still working on it. I was trying to raise the roof before I had walls up.
Entrepreneurs – we’re often big dreamers, overachievers. We’ve got an idea, and want to bring it to life. And then we see other entrepreneurs launching new stuff, pulling it off, writing books, collaborating with others, gaining momentum. Comparisonitis would be a bad disease to catch in this season.
Because this is not a race. It's a construction project. Great builders build strong; they don't race against the quickie structure that's going up next door and will only last five or ten years, or the amazing, stunning one that has more resources down the street. I lived in China for two years. I saw buildings go up fast. Quick and crumbly is how those brick walls looked. Workers were on the job around the clock, suggesting dedication when in reality they had exhaustion. Trust me, they were not building to last; they were building to be done fast.
I want my company to be around in five years, and ten, maybe fifty too.
I won’t pace myself against another runner, because I'm not running --- I'm building. I’m a one-person construction crew, aka an entrepreneur. Nobody is gonna fall through a hole in the floor of my business. It ain’t gonna fall apart later because I’m in a rush now.
Building a business of your own ain’t snazzy or dazzling. Sure, this process takes courage and leaps of faith. It also takes less flashy qualities like patience, commitment, determination, passion over time, and depth of love for the project --- 25th-anniversary love, not just 2-months-of-dating love.
Sorry, sexy cowboy, right now I’m going for farmer and construction-crew-style entrepreneurship. But once in a while, when I’m all alone working under a big starry sky, late at night while the nice job-holding folks sleep, I’ll think of you and grin.