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4 Lessons Entrepreneurs Must Unlearn To Be Successful In Business


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

9 minute read

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As an entrepreneur, I’m willing to bet you’ve received tons of business advice from various sources throughout your life, or researched different methods on your own.

But the truth is, not all advice is good advice. I found out the hard way.

There are a lot of common misconceptions about what it takes to be successful in business. One of them being that you need to work yourself to the bone and sacrifice everything else in your life in order to achieve your goals. But in reality, this could not be further from the truth. So let's dive in and debunk those myths and set you on a better path to success.

1. You need to do everything yourself

Doing everything yourself makes sense at first when you’re starting a business, but it dramatically limits your growth when you make a habit of relying solely on yourself. There are only so many hours in the day, and you can’t be everything to everyone.

There’s a sense of comfort and security in doing everything yourself because you are responsible for the outcomes. “If you want something done right, do it yourself” as the saying goes. But in reality, this mindset often leads to far more harm than good. By simply putting a little trust in others and being strategic about your work, you achieve so much more.

Take your regular, day-to-day tasks, for example. This could be processing orders, sending emails, or creating new listings for your site. Yes, these need to be done for your business to keep ticking over, but if you spend every day and week doing the same low-impact tasks, when will you have the chance to focus on the high-impact work that’ll push your business further?

“Whenever I get the time… Once my schedule calms down… I’ll get around to it soon…” Sound familiar? That’s what I used to tell myself, too.

But when you’re doing everything yourself, “the time” is never going to just appear in your schedule. You end up just getting deeper and deeper into the weeds.

Focus on working on your business instead of in your business.

You want your business to be the best it can be, that goes without saying. It’s one of the main reasons why entrepreneurs are reluctant to hand tasks over to others, as there’s no guarantee that someone else would complete them exactly the same as they would.

But where some entrepreneurs see this as a negative, others see it as an opportunity. Because let’s be honest, you may be an expert content writer, great at customer service, or an impeccable strategist, for example, but the chances are that you won’t be all three at once.

Instead of trying to be a Jack of all trades, find competent people to bridge the skills gap. This requires a look inward and a high level of self-awareness, but once you start delegating tasks that are not your strong suit or the best use of your time, you’ll start seeing much better results when all aspects of your business are being handled by those who are best suited to them.

Remember, you are the best person to run your business and are not looking to replace yourself. But the more time you can free up with fewer tasks on your plate, the more you can focus on how you can take your business to the next level.

See: Why Entrepreneurs Should Delegate Their Way To Business Growth

2. You have ultimate, unlimited freedom

Often, the main driver behind starting a business is the freedom that comes with being your own boss. I’m sure many of us dreamed about how great it would be to have no one telling us what to do, and were more than happy to make this dream a reality.

But sooner or later, the very thing that we were lusting over at the start of our entrepreneurial journeys can be the thing that ends up burning us.

What we would like to do each day and what we need to be truly productive are rarely the same.

For example, I would like nothing better than to bring my laptop into the living room and work from the comfort of the sofa, with the TV playing in the background. But if I were to actually do that, I know I’d be lucky if I managed to get even 10% of my work done each day. I’d be far too distracted, and I’d never be able to get into “the zone”. I’d likely spend my evenings desperately scrabbling to catch up, which would mean missing out on quality time with my family.

What starts off as freedom and flexibility can quickly descend into a lack of structure, poor time management, and declining standards.

Welcome structure back into your routine.

If you want to succeed and scale your business in the future, you won’t get far without solid structure and discipline.

You still have plenty of freedom in your business, the freedom to manage yourself and choose how and when you work. But self-awareness and honesty are key, here. What helps you work at your best? When do you have the most energy? What are your biggest distractions?

Use this knowledge to structure your routine in a way that works for you—not against you. This way, you can be sure you’re giving the best version of yourself to your business and making the most out of every hour in every day.

3. Too many cooks spoil the broth

If you’ve ever watched TV, read a newspaper, or browsed the internet, you’re bound to have seen at least one inspiring story of how one person started their company from scratch and single-handedly made it a roaring success. It’s true that those who want to march to the beat of their own drum are often drawn to entrepreneurship, as are those who long for full control and responsibility over their professional life.

Such fierce independence can certainly have its benefits, as it provides valuable opportunities to hone your problem-solving and decision-making skills as well as foster accountability. And if you’ve chosen to start and build a business all by yourself, no one could ever question your work ethic.

However, there may come a time when you reach the limit of what you’re able to achieve on your own. Many entrepreneurs believe that the responsibility to grow their business is theirs and theirs alone. For others, their business is their baby, and they feel the same level of protectiveness when faced with the prospect of placing it in the hands of others. It’s here that independence can be their downfall.

Be open to sharing your vision.

In order to take your business to the next level, it’s absolutely vital to be able to recognize when you need help, and take action.

Do you think eBay would still be the $35 billion company it is today if founder Pierre Omidyar kept his team size strictly at one? Or that IKEA would still have over 460 stores around the globe if founder Ingvar Kamprad was content to just sell furniture door-to-door by himself? In most cases, the key to unlocking your business’s full potential lies in building a team that shares our passion.

Think about all the moving parts of your business that need to run smoothly for your business to thrive. With customer service, marketing, sales, content creation, shipping, quality assurance, and so much more, you can’t really expect yourself to be everywhere at once. Let alone muster the time and energy to push your business further.

Instead, seek out people who are just as excited about your business as you are. You might not believe they exist, but trust me, you’ll find them. And when you do, invite them in with openness.

If you ever feel yourself mourning the loss of your independence or feeling like you’re losing control, remind yourself of your core purpose. You will always be the key decision-maker, and the ultimate authority still lies with you.

4. Hard work will always get you ahead

From an early age, many of us have been told that working hard is the main guarantor of success, i.e. “anything is possible if you work hard enough”. While it's certainly a positive message, and may well be true in some cases, it's led to unhealthy and often unrealistic views of what life as an entrepreneur should be.

Naturally, we all want to succeed, so we accept and prepare ourselves for the hard work we must invest in order to achieve it. In most cases, this takes the form of long working hours.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 49% of self-employed workers work more than 44 hours per week, and a shocking 26% reported working more than 60 hours during a typical week. If hard work (by way of long hours) equals success, then all those business owners racking up way more hours than the national average are bound to be successful, right?

Sadly, the stats tell a different story. Despite all their efforts, only around one-third of businesses will reach their tenth birthday.

So, how can we increase our odds of success? How can we see better results from our efforts?

Smart work gets you further.

People always say the phrase, “work smarter, not harder,” but what does that actually mean for your business?

Part of the problem with trying to grind your way to the top is that you soon reach a point of significantly diminishing returns with the number of hours you work and the results you get in turn.

At one point I was working in excess of 100 hours per week, but my business was going nowhere. You can imagine the toll it took on my mental and physical health, as well as my personal and professional life. It was only after I realized the true value of time and mastered simple techniques on how to achieve more while working less, that everything changed.

My working week is now capped at 35 hours, I am no longer stressed and burned out, and my business is now an award-winning, multi-million dollar success.

In my experience, achieving long-term success is not the result of how many hours you work, but the quality of the time you spend working. It’s about the decisions you make on a daily basis and having the time and energy to make them well.

See: 7 Ways A Virtual Assistant Can Help You Work Smarter

What’s the bottom line?

In today’s world, starting your own business can be a bet against the odds, so entrepreneurs deserve all the help they can get. But with so much advice to comb through about entrepreneurship, it can be hard to cut through the noise and focus on what’s truly valuable.

This is why it is so important we release ourselves from these commonly-held beliefs and practices if they do not serve us. As well-intentioned as they may be, they can seriously limit your potential. By doing this, we can open ourselves up to a world of new opportunities that may have never been possible otherwise. So let go of what's holding you back, and see what amazing things you can achieve.

If you’re ready to start doing more, achieving more, and earning more in your business, Time etc is here for you. We are dedicated to helping hardworking and ambitious entrepreneurs take back control over their days by providing the best virtual assistants for their businesses.

Speak to our expert team to get started or try a skilled virtual assistant for free today.

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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