Q: I have been a real estate entrepreneur for a little over two years now. I love what I do, but often times struggle to stay committed and on task. How do I improve my focus and follow through?
A: Oh this one is easy…Adderall. All joking and prescription medications aside, I’d love to know how old you are. Only because it is a widely accepted dilemma that the attention spans of children and young adults is about equal to that of the common house cat. In other words, they have none. I certainly don’t me to criticize you personally, but it truly is a symptom to be contended with. Kids and young adults have grown up in a world of fast-paced TV, instant messaging, video games and various and sundry other means of either watching or achieving a nearly instantaneous outcome.
So regardless of your age, you are going to have to teach yourself discipline. I will readily admit that many entrepreneurs are Big Picture people and that is a gift…truly. But in order to achieve the big picture you need to be able to execute a plan. And that takes time, patience and devotion. The allure of finding the deal and the rush that can come from a successful negotiation are experiences that are the lifeblood of the real estate entrepreneur, but all that happens in between is equally as important if not equally as exhilarating. How amazing to be a professional football player that walks onto the field in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans. But that only happens about a dozen times a year. The rest of the job is the far less glamorous time spent in the weight room and at practice. But game day never comes if you don’t put in all the other effort. Clearly I could take this analogy too far, but you certainly get the idea. Consider all the more mundane details of entrepreneurship to be the work-outs that dread them or not, are essential to your success.
I’ve mentioned Greg’s pension for lists in the past and it is such a powerful tool it bears mentioning again. Decide what time of day you want to take your medicine so to speak and schedule the adrenaline free tasks for those times. If you need to just “get them over with,” make a list of your morning “chores.” If your most inspired and creative times are in the morning use that time and space to plan, call, create and tend to the more enticing aspects of your business but be sure that you’ve set aside a couple of hours later in the day to write bird letters, call your accountant, write a detailed business plan…etc., etc. It is the beauty and the beast of entrepreneurship. You are you own boss but without that outside influence and set of defined expectations so many people do flounder. But if you’re going to do this thing, you need to wear ALL the hats. You are the superstar salesman but you’re also assigned to accounting and the mailroom occasionally. If you need accountability create it for yourself. Find a friend or fellow entrepreneur whom you respect to help keep you on the straight and narrow. If you are just utterly loathe to deal with the details you may want to consider taking on a partner with a somewhat opposite skill set, or hire someone to manage the details for you. Because make no mistake about it, a business that doesn’t tend to the details will last about as long as a carton of milk.
There is an intriguing book that one of Greg’s students put me on to called “The E Myth” and it’s certainly worth your time. It acknowledges that every small business needs an entrepreneur, a manager and a technician and that lucky you need to learn to be all of them. If your internal dialog says “yeah, but I’m an ideas guy… I like to dream big and just go for it” then you are not truly an entrepreneur. Worst case scenario you tend to be one of those souls that are drawn to every multi-level market scheme ever created because of the rush of success they sell or alternatively, perhaps you are better off in a corporate think tank where you just get to brainstorm amazing ideas and allow other talented staff to follow through with the implementation. But if you truly want to not just consider yourself an entrepreneur, but actually be one then you absolutely must tap into your inner manager and technician identities. The good news is that all of these skills can be learned but as with any worthwhile endeavor their mastery requires focus, effort and education. As they say in the golf world, “drive for show and put for dough.” In other words, it’s wonderfully impressive if you can drive the ball 300+ yards straight down the fairway, but unless you’re willing to put in the time on the greens mastering the touch, the subtly and the precision, neither golf nor entrepreneurship is not truly your game.