Should Entrepreneurs Surrender? Sometimes

By at 30 December, 2020, 12:58 pm

by Raymond J. Keating-

The old saying goes: If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Or how about something along the lines of: Without risk, there’s little chance for great reward.

Of course, each of these declarations pertains to entrepreneurship. Indeed, entrepreneurship isn’t easy, and it involves significant risks, never mind the uncertainties. These are the issues that entrepreneur Pooja Dhingra, founder and executive chef of Le15 Patisserie, wrestled with recently in an article for the Harvard Business Review. In fact, the piece was titled “Why Entrepreneurship Is So Hard.”

When I was teaching MBA students, I often noted that there’s just as much, if not more, to be learned from failure as from success. Dhingra, more or less, acknowledged a similar point in this piece when she observed, “Building my business for the last 10 years has brought me the highest highs and the lowest lows.”

Dhingra goes on to serve up some lessons regarding entrepreneurship that I find more insightful than much of the usual pablum served up about being your own boss. The entire article warrants reading, but here are a few thoughts that I wanted to highlight and why.

While implicitly acknowledging the importance of both passion and perseverance, she notes other traits that need to balance the entire entrepreneurial equation, namely, that the entrepreneurial process is a marathon, not a sprint. Therefore, she pointed out, “So, be patient, be consistent, and build momentum each day. I know it’s easy to get carried away when you’re working on a passion project, but consistency really matters. If you feel stuck, step away, look at the bigger picture, take time to analyze it. Then create a plan and attack.”

Dhingra also noted that things inevitably will get out of whack, and how an entrepreneur reacts to that is critical. She wrote: “As the captain of the ship, I’ve realized how I react to situations directly impacts how everyone reacts to it. So it’s super critical for a founder to be grounded and centered. Things will get out of whack at times and you will feel overwhelmed. Know that there is only so much you can do to exercise control over situations.”

Another important point raised by Dhingra is to keep the “why” of a business at the forefront. Why does your business exist? She noted, “The more time I’ve spent in isolation, the more I’ve thought about the ‘why’… Find your ‘why.’ Paste it in your room. Look at it when you’re lost and confused (this happens a lot). I look at mine every single day and it centers me and puts me back on track.”

Finally, she emphasized a term that I don’t think I’ve seen in anything that I’ve read on entrepreneurship before, at least not in a positive sense, i.e., “surrender.” Consider her point:

“If there’s anything the last six months have taught me, it’s that we’ll often find ourselves in situations we can’t control. And in situations we can’t control, we must learn to surrender. What does surrender mean to me in this situation? It means taking each day as it comes. It means not dwelling in pity about the things that I can’t control, but instead focus on the ones I can, like waking up and going to work every day, doing what I have to do to make sure the business runs and grows, and to ensure that my people are taken care of to the best of my abilities.”

“Surrender,” in this sense, doesn’t mean giving up. Instead, it’s about coming to a realization that there are some things that we simply cannot do anything about, and there’s no use dwelling on that lack of control in a kind of pity party.

In recent months, I’ve come to a similar realization. My mantra has been don’t waste time and energy – physical, mental and emotional – on things that cannot be controlled, and instead, focus on where a difference can be made.

No, entrepreneurship isn’t easy – especially during 2020. Surrendering on the uncontrollable, and instead focusing on what you can do is a valuable lesson born out of tough times.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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