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03.25.2014 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma: How to Keep the House in Order

Whenever I’m working with entrepreneurs, there’s one question that always pops up. It’s the age-old dilemma for any business owner: how to maintain and grow the business and still have a life. This dilemma presents quite a challenge given the reality that most entrepreneurs often find themselves with limited resources.

For the entrepreneur, there just never seems to be enough time, money, or talent to get the job done.

Regardless of your circumstances as a business owner, having your house in order can mitigate these factors. By this I mean, it’s vital for the entrepreneur to maintain a level of intention and purpose in all areas of his/her life—not just the business.

Every House Needs a Foundation.

What exactly is the house?

The house represents all aspects of your business and your life. Think of it this way: Every house has a foundation just as every business needs to have a foundation. The mistake that many entrepreneurs make is that they respond to an idea or a passion without first doing the hard work of putting the foundation for the business in place.

The result is a business built on shaky ground. The foundation of the business has to do with several elements I’ll discuss in greater detail some other time. For now, note them as:

• Purpose
• Vision
• Mission
• Values
• Strategic Road Map
• Financial Strategy

In my work with entrepreneurs, most see themselves as having these elements in place. In real life, however, I find that many are so busy keeping the business going that they have no strategy for how to grow their organization.

As the famed Joel Barker used to say: Vision without Action is just a Dream; Action without Vision is a Waste of Time.

Don’t Forget the Windows.

Would you build a house without windows? Of course not.

A house without windows might stifle you and your family. You need windows to give you fresh air, a clear view, and to protect you from harsh weather when needed.

Imagine the windows, then, as the six major areas of your life that sustain you: Spiritual, Physical, Family, Social, Financial, and Mental.

These six areas overlap into your life and business, and when one is out of kilter, the others are affected. For example, if you’re not paying attention to your finances, you will probably experience mental stress at some point in time.

These windows are vital to our overall health and well-being. You cannot separate them from your business life because you cannot expect to realize prosperity in your business if you are out of balance in the other five areas of your life. As an entrepreneur, you owe it to yourself to recognize the value and importance of nurturing and developing these areas.

The Syndrome of “Too Many Hats.”

I am an entrepreneur, so I know how easy it is to fall into the syndrome of wearing “too many hats.” It’s the story we run whenever we are feeling overwhelmed by the business. When we fall into this trap, we tend to focus on the components of the business that we enjoy most, e.g., marketing, finance, or developing new product lines.

We also tend to do this with respect to our personal lives. For example, I’m much better at taking time out for the gym than I am at making time for social activities with friends. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my friends. It’s just that it’s easier to schedule an early morning trek to the gym than it is to schedule dinner with others who are also busy and over-committed.

What I've learned through the years, however, is that you need to open these windows of sustenance. Failure to do so, and you will suffocate. You will die. And, so will your business.

I challenge you, as an entrepreneur, to examine your own house. Do you have a clear foundation? Are the windows opened wide enough?

Q: Any thoughts on what it means to keep your house in order as an entrepreneur? You may leave a comment here.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. March 25, 2014