Startups Are Personal: Don't Lose Focus On Your Values

by Mary Juetten, Forbes Contributor

We continue the discussion in our lessons learned series with another piece on how personal values can shape or impact your business. In our last post, co-author Mike Willee and I discussed how entrepreneurs often become overwhelmed by the day-to-day stress of running their business and trying to do everything. We also examined how that stress can lead to decisions that ultimately steer the company away from its original goals.

Terry Raimey, the cofounder and co-president of Black Streak Entertainment, talks about how trying to do too much can be harmful to your company:

“My biggest mistake when starting Black Streak Entertainment was trying to play Superman. On top of creating the products that we sell to make a living, I was marketer, promoter, accountant, and publicist. I took on too many roles in an attempt to save money. Big mistake. By taking on so many roles, I was overwhelmed, and I actually wasted time and money that I could’ve been utilizing to create more products for our youth entertainment brand. Had I hired different people to fulfill the roles of marketer, accountant, and publicist, we would’ve had a wealth of knowledge and new ideas flowing into our business, thereby helping us grow faster and lessening my stress levels. Don’t hesitate to hire professionals to help you manage the business side of your business, even if they are freelancers. Doing so will save you a lot of money and headaches in the long run and give your business a greater chance to grow and thrive.”

For many entrepreneurs, the realization that their business has gotten away from them can be unnerving, if not depressing. Jennifer Reitmeyer, a business coach, speaker, and entrepreneur, talks about coming to grips with the feeling that her business didn’t reflect her character:

“My #1 business mistake, and the lesson I learned from it, is probably a little different [than most]...I think the biggest mistake I made wasn't related to finances, hiring, or technology. Rather, it was related to my mindset. I've operated my primary business for 13 years and spent way too many of those presenting the business in the way I thought I should. I was stuck in a fear and scarcity mindset, concerned myself too much with what others' definition of ‘professional’ was, and invested too much worry into the opinions of others. I run my company in a very image-conscious industry, in an image-conscious market, and I found myself constantly struggling to keep up. As a result, I often felt ‘less than’ and fake. The business I'd worked so hard on didn't feel at all like ‘me.’ After some major personal crises (a contentious divorce from my former business partner and the special-needs diagnoses of both my small children), I did a lot of soul-searching and realized that, regardless of the outcome, it was now more important to me than ever to operate my business, and every other part of my life, with complete authenticity. I managed to completely overcome my obsession with what others thought, made some changes to my branding, and began sharing my personal story at speaking engagements and in coaching sessions…[and] launched a couple of new ventures. All in all, I feel more successful than ever, and this time I feel like I can really own that success, because I created it in a way that feels completely true to myself.”

So, how can you get your company back to where you want it to be? Or get started on the right track from the beginning? First, you have stay positive, as Maria Rapetskaya from Undefined Creative points out:

Running a company isn't a ‘goal’; it's a long, winding road. Enjoy the process! Unless your goal is to cash out and you've got some built in exit strategy, chances are you want a long-term entrepreneurial career. You will have ups, and you will have downs, possibly in the same week, or even day. You will gain amazing clients and lose others for reasons fair and unfair. That's all part of having a business. I've yet to encounter a single business owner who's reached some grand, stable plateau beyond failure, disappointment, and doubt. We all experience it. Instead of discouragement, focus on becoming more resilient, on learning how to handle stress productively.”

It’s also important to try and figure out where you went wrong and why. Did you make a series of decisions that slowly compromised the principles on which you founded your business? Was there one event that forced you to change the way you went about things? Whatever conclusions you draw, understanding where you went “wrong” can help you avoid similar mistakes in the future and correct your course.

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