Yesterday I had a talk with a serial entrepreneur. This guy (let's call him Cedric) is a serial entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word — he starts building a company but, in his own words, one of the first conversations he has with his team is succession planning. Cedric has learnt two things about entrepreneurship.
The entrepreneur's journey
When we start out building a company we are innovators. We start from the ground up with an idea and the desire to change the world. We have some skill or knowledge that we want to use to build something of value for ourselves and others, and a burning desire to see that succeed.
So we bootstrap, hustle, beg and borrow to get our brainchild off the ground. We work inordinate hours, put all of ourselves into our venture and breathe life into something that didn't exist before.
And when it takes off our lives change.
We're no longer innovators — we've morphed into entrepreneurs. We have a team, sometimes we have investors and we spend more and more time building a business rather than building our idea. We have to let go of stuff — the stuff we loved doing, and embrace a new way of working and looking at what we've crafted.
Then it starts growing and our lives change again.
Our business has now grown to the point where we spend little actual time working on the idea, product or service we started out with. We're managing a business and leading people. Strategy, business meetings, finance and people problems take over most of your life, and you're like a proud parent looking at your child growing up and going out on his or her own.
And if it grows some more our lives change — yet again.
The business is now so big we've had to break it up into divisions to make it manageable. We don't even get to the front lines, real products and real customers any more — we're too busy managing an empire. And with an empire comes an entourage — scores of people clamoring for your attention, hanging out at your house over weekends and half-strangers greeting you respectfully on the street.
Cedric knows that not every entrepreneur is a manager — or a leader
I only met Cedric yesterday, but he was very clear that he is a serial entrepreneur. He knows that he doesn't want to be a manager or a CEO. He knows that his personality is better suited to the role of entrepreneur, building something from the ground up and laying the foundation for others to continue on with it when it outgrows him.
Cedric also knows that you have to let go
We all reach points in our lives where we have to let go of stuff. Sometimes those things are relationships or friendships. Sometimes those things are pet projects, ideas or even businesses.
Because while we may love being entrepreneurs, we're building something bigger than ourselves and sometimes the best way to let it grow is to let it go.
The entrepreneur's journey is a dead end
Your journey from innovator to entrepreneur and beyond will never stay in the same place for long — after all, it is a journey. Recognize that it will come to an end and you have to enter a new phase. Be honest enough with yourself to know when it's time to move on and let it go — and if you decide to stay on do it with joy.