As an entrepreneur, you aren’t a stranger to hitting road bumps and facing challenges that might set your plans back. As an entrepreneur, you also know that you can’t stop these challenges and hardships from coming, but you can turn them around and turn them into growth. There’s a variety of situations that you’ll face, and every journey is different.
In this episode of Making Bank, James Friel, an investor and consultant, discusses what he learned from starting his own business and running into common problems that beginner entrepreneurs typically find themselves having. Starting from college and working his way up the corporate world, James made his way to the top. But after deciding that his dream job wasn’t exactly the one he planned, he realized he wanted to help entrepreneurs gain knowledge on how to better their business.
Learn how James recommends you start your business, along with how to face challenges and come out on top.
Figuring Out How to Start
When it comes to starting in business, James knows the challenges firsthand. The hard part? “It’s trying to figure out what’s my product-market fit. Like, who is the customer that I serve? You know, what am I going to sell them. What’s the thing that’s going to add value?” To James, this is a level of experimentation that you’ve got to go through until you get that final idea, or product. Everyone has value to add, it’s just how you match the value that you have to a specific product, or service, with what people want and would buy.
During this stage, when you discover what you can make a profit off of and what your values are, you can find yourself suddenly in the middle of this business. Things start to move fast, and then the unanticipated problems come along. For example, James had always been pretty good with sales from the get-go. But then, he had customers and had to manage a bunch of people. There were a bunch of things moving at one time, and suddenly James had to focus on aspects other than sales. And all he wanted to do was sell more stuff.
“I was being held back because there was all this like stuff inside that needed to be done. And I felt like I was wearing, you know, nine different hats and I was working 80 hours a week. And I was just like, dude, I don’t think this is what I signed up for.” James says of starting his business and finding himself suddenly in this big role.
When you start, you’re doing the thing you love to do most. And then, suddenly, it grows to this thing that gets too big for you to handle. At this point, you get pulled from doing what you love to work on the bigger picture of things.
Pushing Past Challenges
So how do you get over these challenges and move forward successfully? “I think I did what a lot of people do when, which is when you’re overwhelmed, and you’re stretched…and you’re like let me just hire some people.” James grew his company with more employees to help take the workload off of his shoulders. He felt pretty confident in leading a company because he had previous experience in working with large teams.
However, it did not go as planned. Reflecting, James comments that he was probably arrogant going into the situation. It was like a revolving door. James had people coming in and leaving or coming in and he would have to fire them. It was a big situation trying to figure out everything. One of the things that helped him in those crazy times was taking a step back and realizing that great businesses had a sort of system in place.
“You need to build systems that replace yourself. And I think I had been thinking about replacing myself with other people as opposed to replacing myself with systems.” James realized that he could put systems in place that helped his business, used people, and he could still do what he wanted to do.
James came to his definition of creating a system, which was a combination of people and processes, and tools. He wanted to implement people who have processes and tools supporting them. That way, he had more free time for himself instead of being stuck doing the things he didn’t want to do in the first place.
There’s a difference between hiring people and implementing people in systems to successfully function and work together to achieve what needs to be done. For James, it didn’t stick until after a few trials and errors, when it led him to a moment where he stepped back and had to look at his problems like an engineer.
It’s important to understand what works for you, and how to solve your problems. You’re gonna have a lot of hardships and challenges, but how you handle it is the foundation of being a good entrepreneur. As James says, “Cause everyone tells you to work on the business, but I don’t think anyone tells you HOW to work on the business.”