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The Goldfish Entrepreneur

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I am plagued by a lack of hours in the day, and restrictions on human cloning in the UK. Were I to be granted four extra hours, or a compliant doppelgänger, I would be happy. Instead, I do worry that I am spreading myself a bit thin.

In addition to the posts at this blog, and the two Twitter accounts associated with it, I also maintain accounts for a couple of clients. Not only that, but in a reverse-launch strategy, I’m also tweeting on topics of interest before getting a couple of projects off the ground. When I’m not researching those, or thinking up ideas for posts, I also need to maintain my other sources of revenue.

As if I didn’t have enough to keep myself busy with already, I have now taken on additional responsibilities at Kenya Imagine, and will soon be Managing Editor (submissions always welcome; just get in touch). Not only that, but I may have scored a semi-regular job elsewhere, too.

This is not a boast, but serves to demonstrate the problem that confronts any entrepreneur who has more ideas than they have time on their hands, especially if they are trying to maintain their paying career while getting a new venture off the ground. How do you devote enough time to new ventures to make them worthwhile without compromising your principle source of income?

The business press has its share of “overnight success” stories, where companies are described as having come from nowhere to dominate their niches. What is often overlooked are the untold days and hours that the progenitors of these bright new enterprises spent fighting off sleep to make sure that they got their tenders in on time, or how they may have missed a family birthday to tweak a product specification. Overnight success is a myth; it takes blood, sweat, tears and a little luck to make a success of a new business, especially if you have been keeping up with your nine-to-five simultaneously.

This difficulty can lead to a form of entrepreneurial burnout: get a good idea, work on it for a while, feel the pressure of time constraints, abandon it. Get another good idea, rinse and repeat. That friend of yours who always has an idea in the pipeline, but never seems to bring it to fruition? They could be absolutely sincere in their wish to bring it to market, but they may not have the time to devote themselves sufficiently to their projects.

The easiest – and most reckless – way to handle this dilemna would be to quit the day job and devote yourself wholly to the a new business idea. After all, everyone will love it, and you’re going to be a multi-millionaire in a year, right? Only, during that year, you not only have to pay the bills for your new business, but the bills you were paying previously will not have disappeared. If you are serious about your side-project, the most sensible way to handle things is to analyse your time, and to work out whether you can work on an outside interest while you are still gainfully employed.

In my case, without a radical change in lifestyle, I cannot give up any of my other work just yet. For that reason, I have had to prioritise. Project X, which I had assumed would be ready to launch this September, has been pushed back for another year. Yes, I am disappointed, but I appreciate the chance of another 12 months to refine my strategy.  I could abandon the idea wholesale and come back to it later, but then I wouldhave lost the momentum and knowledge that I have been building on.

There are those who will be happy in a back office doing nothing but filing and those who literally itch to start their own businesses. When real life interferes with their grand vision, some would-be entrepreneurs will give up, certain that the world is arranged to thwart their ambitions. It isn’t necessarily so. You can have as many brilliant business ideas as you want. In fact, most entrepreneurs have more that one. The ones who succeed, however, manage to bring an idea to market without losing focus of everything else in their lives.

Don’t be a goldfish entrepreneur; never lose your focus. Keep your eye on the long-term prize rather than instant riches. If you can maintain your professionalism while burning to strike out on your own, your commitment to your business when you do get the chance to concentrate on it will be so much more clear-sighted and realistic.

[Image by ÚlfhamsVíkingur]


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