When I was in the corporate world, the path was clear. You show up and do good work and you’ll be promoted. I didn’t have to put much thought into it. It was known. Chatting with a friend today reminded me that I had to unlearn this and take a different approach as an entrepreneur.
My first few years at CCAW, I worked hard. That hard work was rewarded with (in my eyes) marginal progress, and I was nowhere near where I wanted to be. I couldn’t see a path to get there, either. I’d applied what I’d learned in corporate America, but it wasn’t working very well. Our revenue was growing, but I was struggling in many areas. It felt like I was on a hamster wheel spending more time working in the business than on it. I was stressed and working a ridiculous number of hours.
I eventually decided to take a step back. I realized that I was hoping things would just fall into place. It wasn’t working out like that. I spent time crystalizing where I wanted to be and pinpointing what was preventing me from getting there. I realized that to reach my destination in a healthy way, I would have to be much more intentional. I would need to rebuild our operational foundation and change our pricing strategy. I estimated that it would take a few months and that our revenue would decline during that period.
The process ending up taking a year and reduced revenue almost 30%, from $688,000 to $485,000. It was extremely painful and I was scared. I wasn’t sure that we’d survive this self-inflicted pain. Vendors were asking why we weren’t buying as much and we faced a cash crunch. Ultimately, though, it proved to be the right call. We built a stronger operational foundation and were positioned for growth. The next year, annual revenue was $793,000 and the following year it surpassed $1 million. We were rolling. I was still stressed, but I felt like I could work on the business more and continue to grow.
My takeaway from this experience was that intentionality is powerful. If I want something, I need to articulate it clearly (to myself and others), put in time and effort, and align my decisions with what I want to make happen. That means that sometimes I’ll have to endure short-term pain to reach my ultimate destination, but that’s OK. I have to be intentional about what I do in the present to reach a particular destination. I won’t just miraculously end up there.