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Hitting the “Start” Button

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | January 28, 2020

Getting things started is an imperfect process, but it is the only way to get things done

In the cold of late January, the energy and resourcefulness of entrepreneurs starts to wain. This is the time of year where it often feels like your business is running you more than you are running it. To break that cycle, you have to start something new inside your operation. A new design, product, promotion, or initiative can re-energize you and your staff, but that means hitting the “start” button (which is difficult this time of year).
It is usually pretty easy to talk about things that you need to do in a business or organization on a high level (we need more customers and sales!). Getting into the minutia of how to accomplish high level goals is harder (we need to find some new products/services that appeal to our clients, so research is important). Actually doing something is the hardest part of all. Doing not only takes time and resources, but critical thinking, and the ability to adjust. Most paralysis in the “doing” phase prior to hitting the start button is caused by the dreaded for “F’s” that prevent innovative doing.
Fear, Fatigue, Finances, and Falsehoods (or a blend of those four riders of the do-nothing apocalypse) will prevent a lot of entrepreneurs from charging ahead with things they know need to get done. Let’s dive into the four a bit, and then talk through some solutions to get started on your next business or organizational improvement.

Fear- It is scary to do something new. What if it fails? What if the thing you said you were an expert about ends up tanking? What if people don’t buy in? What if you don’t see a clear path between where you are and where you want to go? The “what ifs” in business can induce something that we like to call analysis paralysis. Trying something new can be invigorating and teach you new information, skills, and techniques. Doing something new in your business should stretch what you are capable of (which is a little scary), but that’s the only way your business or organization will grow. Creating energy by doing things has limitations, but if you refuse to do anything new your organization is doomed to failure. And, yes- I’m talking to YOU about YOU doing something new that YOU initiate and YOU follow through with. Fear often causes people to pawn initiatives off on someone else so they don’t have to deal with the consequences themselves. Take ownership of the changes you want to make and get them DONE.

Fatigue- People get tired working, and monotonous working environments make the lack of energy worsen over time. Fatigue that prevents innovation is perpetual, and gets exponentially worse. Without something new to challenge and invigorate people, your brain just goes on auto-pilot. Do you ever notice how some of the local cyclists have boundless energy, and some of the most sedentary always seem exhausted? Doing things creates excitement and that excitement can battle fatigue.

Finances- Remember when we talked about the “high level” discussions? Sometimes the failure to break projects down into manageable pieces can cause some sticker shock. Some businesses and organizations will look at where they are (financially) and instantly think “I can’t afford to try anything new”, but they can’t afford to stay stagnant if they want to improve their financial situation. Think through a project and scale it to an appropriate financial risk level, and then push forward. If the project works, scale it up. If it doesn’t work, take what you learned and apply it to the next project.

Falsehoods- Falsehoods usually fall into three varieties: 1. Here is a magic bullet that gets me what I want without trying. 2. Here is someone/something that reinforces my status quo (things are outside of my control, I can just repackage what I’m doing right now because someone else is doing that, etc.) so I convince myself not to do something. 3. I can tell people what to do without actually doing the thing myself. Most falsehoods that stop people from actually starting something for their business or organization are the lies we tell ourselves. If we look ourselves in the mirror, and we force a little self honesty, we can usually push forward. If we understand (especially in the Midwest) that people aren’t going to do things that we aren’t doing ourselves, we can start projects that have a higher chance of success. If we can accept that super easy fixes (somebody else doing something that solves all of our problems) rarely work, we can start actually working towards solutions.
Here are some things that you can do to sustainably combat the four “F’s”.

Create a culture of innovation for yourself and those around you.– If you generate a system where you and the people around you can never fail, ironically, you’ve set your business or organization up for failure. Taking calculated risks is the only way we can truly determine talent levels of individuals inside an organization. If you ask yourself the question, “what have I done to make a measurable impact lately” (be honest with yourself), and you struggle with a quantifiable answer, you probably aren’t inspiring innovation. If the people around you aren’t trying to innovate, you may have produced a disengaged workplace where trying new things that generate better results doesn’t matter. Challenge yourself, reward those around you that innovate, and be honest about things that you did that haven’t quite worked out. Getting started is easier when you remove fear from the equation, and the only way to remove fear is to inspire innovation.

Generate a “high” from project completion, but don’t dwell on it.- Wins are “we’s”. When you share the results of a project in a way that highlights team success, everyone feels the excitement. When you take that success and add “here is how we are going to build on that success” with another project, it lets people know that you aren’t a one trick pony. The more successes your team has, the more chances to celebrate. The more solid initiatives you participate in, the more chances for shared success.

Focus on sustainability and scale-ability within projects.
– Good initiatives should generate cash that you can reinvest in better projects. When you focus on things that are too big, you create a “boom or bust” scenario that can really hurt. Smaller projects that are scalable have shorter time lines and allow you to learn skills that develop future success. A series of smaller projects are typically more sustainable for your business or organization, and they allow you to pick projects that are potential high producers (and kick out of projects that don’t meet your expectations).

Don’t allow you to BS you.- When you get some members of the business community alone, they will confess the existence of a game that is played far too often in the realm of business/organizational/community development. The game is called “buzz word bingo”. Buzz word bingo is when people use a series of fancy sounding words to talk about how to do something without actually doing anything. If you want to know how to get things done, watch people that actually do things. If you want to know how to talk about getting things done, watch people that talk about getting things done. Most people understand these truths, but it is easy to talk yourself into the idea of influence without hard work, and success without innovation and sacrifice. The reality is, you know when you are hearing buzz words and not project strategies worth doing. Be honest with yourself.
Fight your way through your doldrums and start something new. If you are truly stuck, we can help you identify projects that you can initiate in the short term. Creating change consistently isn’t easy, but if you follow the information listed above, you have a shot.
#Promotion #Business Enhancement

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.