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How can entrepreneurs keep the focus on the bigger picture without getting bogged down by the day-to-day activities of running a business?
By Sairee Chahal
“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close-up. The shortcut to closing a door is to bury yourself in the details. This is how we must look to God. As if everything’s just fine.”
– Chuck Palahniuk
Film making and start-ups are wonderfully similar. In both, one is constantly trying to imagine the big picture while assembling elements of detail. In both, there are moments of cheer and there are ones of despair. Timelines of start-ups are like a play in light and shadow. Film making follows a script, whereas entrepreneurial ventures have business plans, only scripted one detail at a time. The constant challenge of keeping the big picture and small detail together is common to both.
So while I am not qualified to comment on film making, my journey of work and life has put me face-to-face with some big-picture-tiny-detail challenges. Have to confess, most could have been handled better or differently in hindsight. So, here I am, sharing some learnings from my ‘eye on the big picture and hands on the small detail’ adventures.
You don’t have to start out as an expert. You just have to start. Start-ups are like that. They are a giant experiment in taking things one step at a time, while replaying the big dream track in your mind all day. Play keeping in mind who you are in this scenario. Are you the dreamer, the pied piper, the work horse at work – irrespective of anything else, this is your project, with a large piece of who you are embeded in it. Once you are at it, what works for you will begin to sort itself out before you.
Internalize your purpose. Something made you start-up. Something got you excited. Something made you sit up and take notice. Revisit that moment, what was the defining vision of that time, what prompted the enthusiasm? The conversation you had with yourself while setting out can be a great radar for your entrepreneurial journey. Revisit your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BiHAG) often. Whatever takes you there – solitude, music, conversing with a mentor, or just reopening some draft documents you made early on. Your purpose is your GPS to the big picture of what you wanted in the first place. Keep that connection on.
Pass on the tasks. Every BiHAG is a list of numerous small tasks. Get people to help you every step of the way. You are the owner of your vision – share your execution, and your vision will seep down naturally. But you need help. Everyone does, and lots. Learning to get the right help is the single most important entrepreneurial skill for running a business.
In film making parlance, every director has a favourite shot and angle. Keep your trademark shot but get others to fill in on the ones that don’t come naturally to you. Clarity of personal thought and ability to articulate detail are twin skills, every entrepreneur could be working on constantly.
Much like this article, there are a million others, strutting the jargon and haloing the pundits. Feel free to ignore. Play by your own rules. Every small task at hand is one of the million things you will accomplish along the way. Don’t let someone else’s judgment (not facts) eclipse what you clearly know about a task.
You got some, which no one else has got! Use them. That is your first and most important competitive advantage. Awareness of your shortcomings is great but you will still perform on the back of what you know best. As an entrepreneur, you are responsible for setting the DNA of your business. A volley of small decisions, including some really simple ones, will define the tone of your company and its place in the market. Feeding it with your authentic self is a first step towards building a great company.
Find people who can align with your vision or can help you putting Operations into place. Great partners can see your dream and replay it to you. They also pitch in when it comes to finding the missing details. Some of these partners – think vendors, agencies, freelancers – will play a core role in completing the picture, with their version of detail.
Change often. Start-ups and movies need retakes. It is a tiring, frustrating process but a great body of work, needs great effort. Change in the small ‘takes’ need not impact the vision of the big picture always. Some of them will do. Make change your friend.
Prepare to succeed but be ready for failure. That is the true honour of being an entrepreneur. Do what you do best but it may still not work, they way you had envisioned. It is alright to fail. There is always a next project, the next road to be taken. More so, ask yourself “If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would miss you and why?” (Jim Collins) and chances are you will revisit why you were at it in the first place.
*Photo credit: toolstop (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
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