I think this a really appropriate post since I have clearly thinned myself out too much as of late. Those of you who most kindly follow my blog, you have probably noticed the posting frequency has gone to hell. Here’s why:
Since day one, I have always had one constant problem – I get distracted. I call it Entrepreneur’s Attention Deficit Disorder (EADD) but it’s also known as Pretty Shiny Thing Syndrome.
This shit is real folks. I am sick, real sick. There is no amount of Ritalin/Adderall/etc. that is going to solve the problem.
Let me explain: I can’t and/or have a very hard time saying no to pretty, shiny things. Ideas, JVs, investments, etc. are my pretty, shiny things. For some it is cars, for others it is purses and clothes. But for me, it’s adding more “work” to my already-overflowing plate.
You’ve read it before…focus, focus, focus. Do one thing well. Jack of all trades, master of none. Johnny do-it-all. Well, it isn’t necessarily that, though perhaps that is the result. It isn’t about trying to be good at multiple things, but rather just doing multiple things. Back when I was dating I used to announce “variety is the spice of life” and that rings true here.
Is this the way I should continue?
Be Able to Take it
I’m never sure which project is going to be the one that blows up. So many times, at the beginning, and during projects, I think, this could be the one. Anyone who knows me has probably gotten caught in one of my rants about a particular project. Right now, I think my agency is right on the cusp of ginormous growth, but tomorrow it could be the small law practice I am putting together. Who knows? I don’t, and it drives me to keep plugging away at them all.
I am young right now, I can handle it. Or so I tell my worried mother who calls me weekly to see if I am getting my ZZZs. I am going to push myself as hard as I possibly can right now because I can. Because I know that eventually I will have dependents, bigger responsibilities and won’t be able to weather all-nighters (I am currently pulling one). As far as I am concerned, I cannot afford to waste a minute of these more capable/productive/irresponsible years of my life.
Of course, with such commitment comes sacrifice. In the first half of your twenties, your friends are partying, out all night, and aren’t generally too concerned about their careers. Eventually my friends caught on, but for the first year it was not easy wishing my friends well as they left for the bar, and then hearing them come in around 4AM (whilst I was building my first agency site), clearly having more fun than I – or so they thought ;)
I have a lot of irons in the fire, and it is not uncommon for me to start something, see some initial success, but then allow it to fall to the wayside. Shortly after I revisit, I see that my competitors have moved in, and sealed up the niche. A mass tort lead gen project comes to mind. Frustration doesn’t begin to explain how I feel when this happens. It is an occupational hazard I suppose.
You know that feeling when you come across a great idea, and those occupying the space are executing like shit? You say, “I could do this waaaay better.” Had I just had a few less of these going on, I could have allocated some resources this way, and maybe made something out of it. Shoulda’, woulda’, coulda’ right? So frustrating!
Knowing is everything
If I have over-glamorized this, let me stop right now. There is a lot about the above that is downright stupid—that will go against what any intelligent entrepreneur would advise. Believe me; I’ve been told by a lot of them. And there really isn’t much disagreeing. They ain’t wrong. Here’s what they tell me, usually starting with “[you are so fucking cool but] you know Adam…” followed by something about focus.
The truth is, my best gigs, the ones that bring home the locally-sourced, double-smoked, apple-wood bacon, are the ones I have focused on the hardest, and the longest. Knowing this is very valuable. Knowing this, and knowing when to focus on what is even more valuable.
I love what I do. Rarely does a day go by (almost 3 years later now) where I am bored. I don’t think a lot of people can say that, and I am pretty damn grateful for it. Sure, those assholes that have only one thing going on will probably outpace me here and there because of their precious focus, but if the cost is being bored, even for a day: fuck it. I will have none of such noise.
Let me tell you one other thing about diversity. Had I not diversified years back, I would have gone belly up in my first year – I am certain of it. Not because of focus, but because this shit is hard, and doesn’t always work. You need to cover your nut, my friends.
However, You’re not Richard Branson
I am reminded of that song/saying “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away.” Entrepreneurship is an addiction, and like gambling, it is terribly easy to get carried away and spend all your monies. You want to own a boutique hotel, a sexy start up, a trendy food cart, and hell, why not put up some seed money too?
While I am severely guilty of this, I remind myself of a few things when temptation comes knocking:
- A bad investment can ruin your good ones
- You must be prepared to lose everything you put up
- Look at the state of your current gigs
How to get your fix
Let’s face it: if you have already started in this path of “destruction”, there is probably no steering you away. So how do you have your cake, and eat it too?
You want to transition the day-to-day management of these projects onto team members. You sir or madam, cannot do it all, and by constantly injecting yourself into every day, tedious BS, you will never have it all.
It’s harder than it sounds, but you need to be constantly asking yourself, “Do I need to be doing this, or can someone else?” As my client roster is grows, I have to ask myself this a lot. I am constantly struggling to keep up. Remember to think of everything you do as a process. Once you’ve gotten good enough at it, start to document the process and hand it off. It is helpful to keep scale in mind – what are the bandwidth limitations of this process? Can it handle a load?
Doing aforementioned will allow you to build a bigger portfolio, and allow you to safely expand whenever required. Better yet, because you are not always so tied up, you are better able to divert more attention to projects during big periods of growth. Ya dig?
Build to sell
Gee-golly is it ever easy to get attached to a project you’ve worked hard on. I still have one looming, that has been long since penalized by Google. It’s totally not legit, and yet I can’t let it go. I can’t let it go because
1) It never saw its full potential and
2) It is too dysfunctional, in too many ways, to try and sell.
If, from day one, I maintained the mindset that I would one day sell this puppy, points 1 and 2 would be a non-issue. I would have built a platform that was modestly successful, avoiding penalization, and built in a niche that would be easier to flip in. I let my emotions drive my decisions, and while I still made coin, I could’ve CAHSED IN. I had fun though ;)
If you approach with the mindset to sell (whether you end up selling or not), in my experience, you will almost always build a better product. And if you do decide to sell, you will be in a much better position to do so, and move, as Jay-Z says “on to the next one.”
Unlike many of my comrades, I got my taste for “side-hustles” by working with clients – consulting. This later led me into affiliate gigs, lead gen projects, etc. In my case, I grew tired of building everyone else’s businesses. Yah, I am selfless like that.
What I didn’t realize until later on was that in many cases, my clients were paying me to learn, to work in new, exciting niches and to ultimately quench my thirst for variety. I didn’t realize it back then because my portfolio was quite petite and I was growing at a snail’s pace. BUT as we (my agency) grew larger, I was working in niches I hadn’t dreamed of, and countries I didn’t even know existed. I picked up the majority of my “skills” from early consulting gigs. So where possible, I would always recommend keeping an open mind to doing a bit of consulting work.
The Take Home
As far as I am concerned, man/woman was built for this. We were never meant to do 1 thing. The sooner we understand that and get to work, the happier we are all going to be.
You can have your cake, and eat it too.