It was Friday night. I was sitting at my dining room table, in front of my laptop. The white glow illuminated my face as I typed away. I wanted to finish a couple things before I called it quits. But I couldn't.
I just could not get anything done. Why? There was this voice in my head saying "What are you doing? Wouldn't it be so much easier if you just got a full-time job again? You're literally putting yourself to the grind on a Friday night. And you've been working since 7am. It's 10pm. And this isn't the first Friday night you're working."
Reality check: Entrepreneurship is the hardest thing I've ever done.
Seriously. You need to have an iron fist, full armor, and the sharpest sword you can find to get through the first few years. It's certainly not TechCrunch magic all the time. It's a hell of lot harder.
As a result, I've been battling my own mind.
Sometimes it feels like I haven't done anything to build my business. Other times, the highs are so fantastic, I ride the coattails of Tuesday all the way to Friday. And then crash and burn when I don't hit projected sales for the month. That was Friday night.
I came to a point where I truly questioned what I was doing. It was around 9:30pm when I realized I didn't have anyone to talk to. I had no motivation. No energy to push through and get work done.
It was then I decided to lay down. My head hit the pillow on my couch for the first time in close to 4 months. I wondered why I didn't do this more often. Couch cushions are so comfy.
Humor aside, I was in a bad place mentally. A bad place. And no one knew. The contributing factors went far beyond my work. It was life in general: The pressure to find new/more friends. The pressure to "do something that isn't work". And the pressure to believe that work/life balance actually exists (and no, going to networking events only to talk about my business, wasn't exactly work/life balance).
No one knew I was crumbling under the pressure until I told my business coach a few weeks ago.
"It's been a hard few weeks. I don't know how I'm going to make this work. I'm barely scraping by. My living costs are increasing (I'm looking at you, health insurance) and I feel like I'm falling behind everyone else. My friends are successful in their careers, making good money, getting married, and what am I doing? For some reason I believe I can build a mustard company."
She listened as I continued.
When I was finished, she reminded me I wasn't alone. That a lot entrepreneurs go through this period of uncertainty, regret, and the feeling of failure. It was normal.
It's normal to work 7-days a week? It's normal to turn down social engagements because you've "got to get some work done"? It's normal to have a 78-item to-do list?
This wasn't normal. A negative transformation was happening. I was becoming introverted - too introverted. A homebody. Nothing was fun to me anymore. It was just a matter of trudging through things. Sleep. Repeat.
It was then that I realized something needed to change. I needed help. And I needed to admit it. Out loud.
I wrote a 68-item to-do list. Everything I wanted to accomplish. I have since written another 37-item to-do list. With some simple addition, that's over 100 things I felt were priority.
Another reality check: I'm not superman.
I can't do all this. Something had to get knocked off the "priority" list (as an entrepreneur everything becomes priority). I needed to start bringing in a team to take my business to the next level. A team of young, talented people, passionate about a disruption in the condiment category (they're actually pretty easy to find).
Before I get to how I'm making change in my business, I want to help you identify if you need the same help.
5 Signs You Need Help (Entrepreneur Edition)
1. When your to-do list is over one page - the whole thing is never getting done. Just face it.
2. When you can't sleep a solid 8 hours - I'm still working on this. I get six if I'm lucky.
3. You think you're Superman - no you're not. No phone booth is going to help you get more done.
4. When your friends start to notice - my best friend calls me out all the time. Thank you, Britt.
5. When you realize you do nothing but work - Last year I fell into this trap. I was out for a couple months. And now, I've fallen back in it.
If you are experiencing anything on this list, you need help. When I hit all five of them, I shut down my computer and binged watched three TV shows for three hours straight. Pure trash. It felt like eating an entire pint of ice cream. It was that good.
After realizing I had a problem, I needed to find a solution. Here's what I did:
So, how did I figure out what needed to get delegated?
I looked at my huge list and identified what wasn't getting crossed off:
- Small retailer follow-up
- Event planning & public relations
- Small graphic design projects & blog posting
It's not that I don't want to do these things. I love graphic design. I love hunting for media lists. And nothing gets a smile on my face like landing a new retailer. But, I needed to put more time in elsewhere.
I needed to hunt the big whales.
You needed to what? Yes, hunt the big whales. Last week, I had an impromptu meeting with one of my favorite advisors. When we get in the same room, it's far too easy to just shoot the breeze with him, but we eventually get down to business. He's incredibly good at asking the hard questions. And one of them was:
"What the hell are you doing? You've got to spend more time landing the big accounts!"
He was right. I needed to devote more attention to landing bigger accounts. So, that's what I'm doing. (PS: He had a lot of other thought-provoking questions I'll address in future blog posts).
What about that other work?
I'm pulling on two interns (maybe three) from two local colleges: A sales & events intern, an online marketing & PR intern, and I'm considering hiring a graphic design intern (believe it or not) who'll work remotely from New Jersey and even abroad this summer. I didn't think I needed the third intern until I realized how much time that would free up for me to get more sales calls done.
More sales calls = bigger business.
While I wish I could actually pay my interns, they realize how unique of an experience they get - and it's one heck of a portfolio/resume builder. I had unpaid internships in college and quite honestly, they were better than the paid ones.
Side note: My parents are stepping up their game, too. Dad helps me build things and sells mustard at events - and Mom, well, she does everything in this blog post.
Overall, I'm happy with the changes I'm making to my business. It will free up some of my time, give me an occasional Saturday off, and the chance to build a personal life back into well, my life.
Finally, I realized I needed help and decided to do something about it. Do you need help, too?