If you can pull it off, being a solopreneur is great. You can create wealth and usually bypass the usual freedom-devouring traps that most entrepreneurs get snared in. If the goal is wealth, freedom and sanity… the solopreneur life is an increasingly smart choice.
Except for the side effect. Consult your entrepreneurial shrink first, because 90% of solopreneurs experience a severe productivity handicap. Here’s why the solopreneur life kills productivity. The solopreneurial dream is sexy. Wake up at noon. Wipe last night’s cereal crumbs from your keyboard. Kicking off a day filled with social media buzzwords. Talk extensively about “shipping art”.
Despite the obvious sarcasm, solopreneur life isn’t bad for those willing to make it work. The conspicuous absence of a boss telling you what to do… feels fantastic.
We’ve been so busy telling people to Escape Cubicle Nation, retire to 4 Hour Work Weeks and become Non-Conformists… that we’ve overlooked a few advantages of old-school big business entrepreneurs. The idea that small (minimalist) is good has been so fetishized that we’ve forgotten the original function and value of building something big.
Corporate productivity shits all over solopreneur productivity.
I’ve got to be blunt, because I know you’re about to disagree with me. And maybe I don’t mean corporate in the worst sense of say, a GE advisory committee trying to make strategy decisions on microwave infrastructure and market demographic dynamics.
Yes, corporate bureaucracy sucks. Teams however, rock.
The original reason for putting a team together in a meeting room was to realize the vision of one person – the founder, CEO or manager. And, despite our desire to hate corporations and big businesses, this is still what happens in many many cases.
People get together, meet, make decisions and take phenomenal action.
Solopreneurs miss out on this and it really is a handicap.
It’s been proven time and time again that social pressure boosts motivation. That’s why I always show up for phone consults with clients (they’d notice if I didn’t) but struggle to work on the sales copy for the new service I’m launching soon. One task has a huge component of social interaction and expectation. The other has next to none. Guess which gets done most consistently.
It boils down to accountability.
And, in the world of big business, teams exist to force mutual accountability on the individuals working on a project.
When a founding entrepreneur or CEO tells her marketing department she’ll have the plan for their PR campaign ready by Monday, you can bet it’ll get done. The CEO is accountable and experiences the pressure of the social dynamic. The team creates that pressure.
Do CEOs blow off commitments? Yes, but for every example of high level CEOs letting down their subordinates, there exists countless counter-examples in which senior execs step up their accountability in the face of a board of skeptical investors and advisors. Pressure and accountability can come from both above and below! Some might even say that public companies gain accountability and leverage via the social pressure of thousands of shareholders all looking for big results.
Solopreneurs want freedom from constraints, pressure and people telling them what to do. The problem is that they get it. Unless they figure out a way to stay motivated, they usually receive a healthy dose of poverty too.
While the solopreneur plays video games (or cleans his desk for the fifth time), the empowered big business entrepreneur and her team are kicking ass and taking names. They might not focus on “shipping art” or other lofty ideals, but they sure as hell get a lot done.
How can you be a solopreneur AND be accountable?
I’m glad you asked, treasured reader, because I think in this case you really can have your cake and achieve goals too!
I was chatting with a client recently who’s experienced huge traction using Facebook’s social accountability plugin. It turns out, if you have a good network, there are plenty of people interested in holding you accountable to get things done.
The evolved version of this strategy is one I recommend to clients: Build an advisory board.
Consider formalizing your relationship with the people (friends/family) who are stake holders in your life. The people who care.
By creating an advisory committee, you can check in (monthly or quarterly works best) with a team of people who are focused on your success. For an hour a month, their job is to hold you accountable to your promises.
Solopreneurs need this.
We need to create structures in our lives that force us to make commitments. We need to be held accountable. Most of all, we need to have the foresight to set up these structures before we really need them. And, we need to ensure a structure like the board becomes autonomous enough (how awesome are your friends?) that it effectively “catches” you when you fall.
As a solopreneur, you should be accountable to your “board” to follow up and report on last quarter’s game plan. After month one, how far along are you? Have you shipped what you were supposed to? What obstacles did you hit? What did you learn?
None of these questions are rocket science, but they are the sort of thing someone else needs to ask. And sure, having a great coach (just click here) is a great first step… but the power of an advisory board should not be overlooked.
The best part is that you don’t need a table full of business gurus. One or two help (coaches make great board members) but there is actually a huge benefit in having a few “civilians” on your team too. Non-entrepreneurs who nevertheless care about your success will swallow less of your BS and be more ruthless in holding you to your ambition. Your 9-to-5 friends believe you’re a slacker anyway, so having one on your board will ensure high expectations for your work output. The truly brave will invite their moms to the table!
An effective advisory board will hold an entrepreneur to:
- Develop, present and lock down a specific business plan. No more changes in strategy every two days – if you want a change in direction, present your case at next month’s meeting.
- Connect the dots between long term vision and day to day action. Want to write a book by the end of the year? Your board will figure out that that requires 500 words a day, starting today. Present 15,000 words at next month’s meeting or do not pass go.
- Manage your Cashflow for real. Present your budge, P&L and expenses to your team. Want to blow last month’s profit on new Apple gear? Your mom (and the rest of the team) might have a different idea of where to “invest” those dollars.
… and so, so much more.
If you’re feeling the uncomfortable realization that you need this type of accountability in your life and business, you need a board. All of these accountability factors are a given and total no-brainer in larger businesses. Big business entrepreneurs shoulder this kind of healthy pressure daily.
That’s why entrepreneurs achieve such huge things.
Solopreneurs have a productivity handicap. Entrepreneurs with teams are much more effective because they’re accountable to others to get things done and make good on their promises.
It’s time to shift from solopreneur to the real deal. Assemble your board and get ready to commit action.
Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts…