Finding Your Way Through the Entrepreneurial Maze

Feb 7th, 2013 by Acton

You know that you need a strong start, and you know where you’d like to end up at the end of the journey. Perhaps you’ve earned a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship and you’re eager to begin the next phase of your life. You may or may not have a clear plan on how to get there, but chances are you’ll need to readjust the route along the way. Sound a bit like traveling the interconnecting pathways of a maze? Not a labyrinth, where there’s only one path that will lead to a clear finish when followed. A maze—in which there is more than one possible way to go at any given time. And most routes lead to a dead end.

Yet, entrepreneurship isn’t like a maze you complete with a pencil. This is a life-sized maze, like the kind you’d find in an English garden. The kind that you walk on foot. You don’t have the benefit of a bird’s eye view or an overhead all-knowing gaze from above the desk where you’re working the puzzle. And you certainly don’t have an eraser. How do you walk the constantly veering path from start to finish? Turns out you may need a pair of hedge clippers.

Give Yourself a Strong Start

Sure, you want to keep a steady pace as you navigate the maze, but the momentum you have at the beginning of the journey will serve you well. Call it beginner’s energy, call it the startup rush—however you define it, use it to your advantage. Take the excitement you have about getting started, and give yourself a boost. What does this entail? Tending to the details that set you up for the best possible chance of success.

In an episode of Ask Gerber, Young Entrepreneur Council founder Scott Gerber suggests taking care of business such as naming and incorporating your company, researching permits and licenses, and opening a bank account. This is the time to speak with an accountant and a lawyer to make sure you understand the tax and legal requirements involved in operating your business. Remember that starting with a bang is about much more than filling out paperwork. After all, this is the perfect time to assemble a team of advisors who can help guide through the entrepreneurial maze.

Be Organized

Organization is an entrepreneur’s best friend. To be able to focus on traveling the maze one purposeful step at a time, you have to remove the clutter from your life. Staying organized may involve eliminating distraction while keeping your eye on the big picture, as well as maintaining a clean workspace. Can you walk a path  covered in weeds? Sure. But it’s not easy.

Remember that staying organized also involves tending to your electronic space. Your inbox and desktop are other areas that require maintenance and de-cluttering. Dealing with the space in front of you clears the way so you can finally reach that finish line.

Take a Break

A break, you say? But entrepreneurs aren’t allowed to take breaks! Time to rethink this belief. Those who walk the maze need time to recharge every now and then, whether this recharging involves refueling, or simply resting so the journey can continue with renewed vigor. If you’ve taken a few wrong turns, you need to clear your head so you can form a fresh strategy.

If a vacation isn’t possible, try rejuvenating in little ways, such as taking an hour each day to do something you truly enjoy. Exercise is a great way to revive, as is a night out with friends. Try escaping into a movie theater or relishing each bite of a meal at your favorite restaurant.

Change Course if Necessary

Hit the wall again? How do you know when it’s time to change course? Perhaps you’ve realized that certain practices are holding you back. Perhaps your business isn’t as lucrative as you’d hoped. Is it time to try a new direction in that maze you’ve been walking? Get ready to pivot. Coined by author and entrepreneur Eric Ries, the term “pivot” refers to a change in direction that involves making new strides while staying grounded in what you’ve learned through your entrepreneurial experience.

A gourmet Italian restaurant that becomes an upscale pizza house after taking their cue from the most beloved item on the menu has successfully pivoted. Or perhaps you acknowledge that your target customer is not who you originally intended, and you adapt as necessary.

Is it time to break out of the maze altogether and try another path? Maybe you’ve just earned an MBA in real estate and you’ve decided to begin your entrepreneurial education. It’s never too late to live the life you long for. So grab those hedge clippers and get to work!

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