It’s sad when the startup is “successful,” but the founder still feels totally unsatisfied. I see it happening all the time. The business is a winner, but the family or other relationships are broken by the stress. Or the entrepreneur started down this path to be their own boss and change the world, but find they are now answering to many more people, with nothing really changed.
These issues are the major focus of a recent book, “The Plan,” by John McKee and Helen Latimer. It zeroes in specifically on the difference between being “successful” and being “satisfied” in your personal and professional lives. The authors start by asserting that many people feel more or less successful, but far fewer, even the successful ones, feel satisfied.
Their conclusion is that you need a plan for your life, as well as your business, and they discuss in detail six steps to get there. If you are an entrepreneur contemplating a startup, and you want both success and satisfaction in business, I recommend you complete these steps before you start any business plan:
1. Identify personal gaps. Find the gaps between the life you’re living and the life you dream of living. Look at the gaps that may exist in three key life areas: the personal/ family side, the career side, and the financial side. It can be difficult to be honest about some of your own character traits. People often behave in ways they don’t understand.
2. Determine your purpose. Your purpose defines what you stand for. This is what should guide your entrepreneurial ambitions and dreams, gives you a picture of where you are going, and help you as you set the goals. Without purpose, you certainly will find yourself feeling unsatisfied even when you achieve business success.
3. Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Most of us have a fairly good idea of our weaknesses. Few of us take the time to really understand our strengths. Review your natural talents and build on the talents you’ve developed. You will see exciting stuff – new business opportunities, new directions.
4. Describe your dream. Many of us are clearer about what we don’t want that what we do want. Use visualization to create a very detailed picture of your dream, and write it down to see if it still makes sense. Feel what it would be like to have, be, or do what you want, to follow your purpose.
5. Create your path. Here the solution is to create short-term milestones. Having a strong desire for something is not enough. Your desire needs to be so clear that you can see each step you need to take to reach it. Taking these steps is absolutely essential and separates those people who succeed from those who don’t.
6. Live your best life. With the personal life plan complete, the most important step is to implement it. This is the time to have faith in yourself and begin to move towards the life you dreamed. If a business is in that plan, now is the time to start your business plan. That’s the only way to enjoy both a high level of satisfaction and success in both.
Even with all this, failures do happen. In the long run, the difference between success and failure can ultimately hinge on how you handle a failure. Don’t just repeat it in a different context, but do the work to understand it, and alter your plan. Try again – as many times as it takes. No matter how daunting. Step-by-step, day-by-day, you can get closer to your goal until you attain it.
Successful but unsatisfying professional careers are one of the primary reasons that people decide to become entrepreneurs in the first place. Thus it makes sense that before you start down the entrepreneur path, you would do some extra work to make sure you are not about to fail one more time. The last thing that this world or you needs is another successful business failure.
CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; Callaman Ventures Board Member and Executive in Residence; Advisory Board Member for multiple startups.