As we come off of the month of love when our thoughts are focused on personal relationships, I can't help but think about the love we have for own businesses. If you are like most entrepreneurs -- especially those of us in the social space -- your business was started from a place of love; however, as companies grow so do our list of responsibilities and soon we may be finding ourselves struggling to keep the love alive. "Sometimes, in business, we lose ourselves to the hum of working day after day," writes Chelsea Berler in an article for Entreprenuer.com. "It can be hard to get excited when, what should be the joy of operating your business gets turned into just another day at the office."
How can you keep that joy even as your business grows? Here are four things I do to make sure that my relationship with the business I love continues to flourish:
Delegate, Delegate... Repeat
Whether you were screen printing custom-designed logos onto a pillow or creating eco-friendly cleaning alternatives, the first stages of your small company began when someone paid you for something you were not only good at doing, but thoroughly enjoyed doing. In addition to the day-to-day business operations eating away at our time, those things we loved start to lose their luster when we begin doing them with imposed deadlines and set schedules. Empower others to own tasks that you yourself don't need to do or are not interested in doing (i.e. accounting) and focus your attention on those things that you most enjoy.
Chances are the tasks that bring you the most joy will also lead you to be your most productive and ultimately will lead your business to even greater success. The key to successful delegation: delegate to those you trust will get the job done and let them do it. After all, delegation isn't just about crossing things off of your "To Do" list--it is also about challenging your team members to develop their own capabilities and skillsets.
Protect Your Company Culture
I have always loved this quote from Dharmesh Shah, founder and CTO of HubSpot: "You may not be able to craft culture. But you can kill it through neglect." I have written a lot about the importance of creating a positive company culture, but maintaining that culture is critical to your success and your happiness. Dan Adika, CEO and co-founder of WalkMe, suggests companies nurture their company culture by doing things like recognizing employee contributions, maintaining stellar hiring standards and encouraging open communication between employees and management. "Scaling up is one of the most exciting periods in a young company's life," writes Adika. "However, make sure you don't get caught up in the excitement and fail to continue investing in the core values that made your company the success it is today."
Stop Thinking about the Future
This is completely counterintuitive to how most entrepreneurs think, but it is an important step in building a company (and life) you love. In a world where instant gratification is king it is easy for us to feel unfulfilled when things are not moving as fast as we would like them move. Instead of living in the moment--of bringing our "A Game" to the moment we are in--we are left pining after a future that has yet to arrive. Business leader Marie Forleo encourages us to make "is ness" our business by being present in the moment, no matter how exciting or unexciting it may be. This practice of mindfulness actually clears our heads of clutter and helps us become more productive and make better decisions. "Showing up fully exactly where you are is the fastest way to get where you want to go," says Forleo.
Go for the Unexpected
I once read an article that stated, "complacency is the silent killer" of businesses and I believe that is true for entrepreneurs as well. Entrepreneurs are innovators who love to build and create. But, when the excitement of creation gives way to being content with what we have achieved, we stop being in love with the process and start falling out of love with our business. The remedy? Always be looking for ways to exceed the expectations of others--from customers to employees to stakeholders, there is always a way a process can be simplified or a product can be improved. Yes, you should be proud of your accomplishments, but challenging yourself (and your team) to always look for ways to do it better will keep you driven, fulfilled and happy.
Like it or not, you are in a relationship with the business you have built. And, just like your personal relationships, the more time and effort you put into it the more satisfied you will feel.