Running a business is like driving on a freeway and entrepreneurship is being the driver. The question is, where are you going and when is your turnoff coming up?
Once you get on, it’s easy to lose sight of the goal. You’re going in the fast lane, presumably in the right direction, and you just get in the zone. If you’ve merged without a predetermined destination, all you can do is drive—and who knows where you’ll end up.
When is your exit turnoff? Every business owner’s answer will be different, as will their journey. That’s what makes the freeway analogy so fitting. In business and in life, you’re navigating at a fast pace.
How do you run your business? Are you in the fast lane, passing everyone and everything? Are you in a middle lane, driving with purpose but not necessarily a need for speed? Or are you in the trucker lane, pacing yourself for the long haul? There’s no wrong answer as long as it’s intentional.
Employees. Customers. Vendors. Family. They’re all passengers in the vehicle that is your business. As the owner and driver, you have to take care of your passengers. They’re the ones who make the experience enjoyable and successful. Taking care of your passengers means managing your business responsibly, showing emotional intelligence, recognizing the needs of others, and, most importantly, planning and communicating your route so everyone knows what to expect.
Even on the freeway, there are obstacles. For a business owner, the obstacles are numerous. From competitors to the economy to finances, taxes, turnover, and time, you’ll go around most obstacles in the moment, but some obstacles may be serious obstructions causing you to rethink and possibly reroute. Oftentimes, these are the things you can’t control and it’s all about how you respond. Know that as your business grows, the freeway can feel like LA—always busy and at times frustrating—but you will get there eventually.
Even the most driven and wired entrepreneurs need breaks, if for no other reason than to refuel. It’s up to you to decide whether a break is a pit stop or a vacation. Do you turn off at a rest area and scarf down fast food so you can get back on the freeway in minutes? Do you check into a hotel for a night to get some sleep? Or, do you take a more scenic route and make a point to enjoy some downtime? Remember, your passengers need breaks too, not just you.
We’ve made it to the most telling part and the whole point of the analogy. We’ve asked important questions along the way, but none more important than the question with which we began. Now, with some introspect under our belts, we’ll ask again in several different ways:
What is your destination?
Where do you want your business to take you?
When does the drive end and the rest of your life begin?
When is your exit?
Be specific. Know the mileage and markers. Don’t just go until you run out of gas. Set your exact exit, embrace the journey, and enjoy the ride.
By John Ovrom, President & CEO, Exit Consulting Group