Feeling Worn Down? Remember Why You Started

Adam Tidrow is a business development officer for PathStone Enterprise Center Inc. in Buffalo, New York. He spent 10 years serving communities and entrepreneurs in East-Central Indiana and is now committed to using his passion and expertise to make an impact in Western New York. Tidrow is a 2018 graduate of the Falls School of Business at Anderson University, where he earned his MBA. He is also the author of “The 7 Page Business Plan: Your Guide to Planning, Starting, and Running Your Business.”
By Adam Tidrow

One of our clients at PathStone Enterprise Center, Pete, called me “just to talk” for the third time in as many weeks. He was feeling the effects of the current crisis and unsure how to go about making decisions, or even how to keep his mind right. As with every business owner right now, Pete was dealing with slowing sales, employees expecting a paycheck, and vendors who want commitments.

“I never planned for anything like this. I never expected this. It’s just a mess,” he said. I reminded Pete that he didn’t start his business because he was certain it would all work out. He started it because he knew he would give everything he could to make it work.

Entrepreneurs have an incredible gift that makes them great at starting and running their businesses, but horrible corporate employees. Their willingness to jump off a cliff and build their wings on the way down is what drove them to start their business. I’ve helped write dozens and dozens of business plans, and the one constant that I’ve seen is how entrepreneurial success is more tied to the ability to make decisions on the fly than it is to the actual plan itself. Being pragmatic, agile, and focused on the goal rather than the plan is what separates a successful business owner from the rest.

No one could have planned for this crisis. As a small business owner, is it even practical to have a pandemic response outlined when so much of the impact is going to be dictated by state and federal governments? I don’t know the answer to that.

What I do know is I’ve taken hundreds of phone calls in the last four or five weeks, most from business owners and entrepreneurs. Some are panicked. Some are calm. The vast majority are somewhere in between: They’re weighing their options—balancing the immediate need for cash with the long-term reality of what that cash is going to cost. They are making decisions about layoffs, while also finding ways to best support the staff they will keep.

And some—the most resilient and intense of them—are asking how they will change their business now and in the future. They’re finding ways to pivot. They are doing what it takes to maintain their vision and mission, while also being financially responsible. These entrepreneurs are showing me they are going to try and weather this storm and come out better on the other side. They probably aren’t going to double their staff by August or double their sales by New Year’s. But, they are going to be better positioned to make an impact in their community and the economy in the long term because they are rising to the challenge.

You didn’t start your business so you could have an easy life. A better life, certainly. But not an easier one. You set out to make your mark on the world. Now is the time to find the passion, drive and determination that you had when you first set out on this adventure. Things are tough now and they’re going to get tougher before they get better; that’s simply an invitation to rise to the occasion…and remember why you started.