“I need your help!” were the first words out of John’s mouth when I walked into his office recently. “We’re starting a new business and I want you to help us figure this out.”
As I looked at John, my first thought was: “Oh my god, he hasn’t got this business running properly yet, and he’s already onto the next one.”
However, the words that came out of my mouth were: “Interesting – tell me more.”
As John described his new venture, I realized I had heard this story more than once.
I’ve worked with John for the past 10 months and he has implemented some systems that reduced his stress load and improved his cash flow, and this allowed him to hire some great people. The result was that he had more time on his hands, and his entrepreneurial brain was working on the next business idea.
This latest venture was the third money-making project John had shared with me in the last four months. He had a typical case of entrepreneurial diarrhea, and it was affecting him and his company.
This is a condition of too many entrepreneurial ideas. This affects many entrepreneurs and can be more deadly than a pandemic or economic downturn to those businesses affected.
Unfortunately, the spread of this disease – which infects many organizations, like flies on a pile of dung – is random and can be difficult to detect and prevent.
When the leader of a company has this disease, there’s lack of focus on completing current projects. Accomplishing goals won’t happen. And staff won’t be able to pin down the leader on what needs to be done.
When this disease spreads like wildfire through a company, with everyone eager to please the boss, there will be a lack of accountability to customers and organizational dysfunction.
Entrepreneurial diarrhea can be caught by business owners and their teams if they’re not careful.
While in most cases the disease is transmitted through those who seem genetically disposed, it can often be transmitted from spouses, family or friends. These trusting people see that the entrepreneur is a person of action and decide to bring their latest idea to this trailblazer in hope that they can be part of something.
This disease can also be transmitted via the internet and even to team members who have fantastical ideas they want to share.
The symptoms of entrepreneurial diarrhea include: consistent distraction and an itchiness – a feeling of being unsettled and unfulfilled in one’s current business.
It can include the need for increased cash, adrenalin rushes and risk. Entrepreneurs in this condition can seem irrational, excited and overly optimistic. People with this disease seem to constantly spew ideas for new businesses in a form that’s something less than solid.
Like a bad case of Crohn’s disease, entrepreneurial diarrhea can leave entrepreneurs and their teams exhausted. Ideas go through them and their companies quickly, sapping their energy over time and consuming valuable resources.
As soon as one idea has been purged, the next one enters and the distraction has them sidelined for days, weeks or months, not just hours.
The result of this distraction and resulting exhaustion is that the entrepreneurs and their organizations who succumb often fail to truly be successful.
If you’re an entrepreneur whose mind is constantly chasing new ideas and ways of making money, I can empathize with you. I’ve been on that pot! I know what it’s like to chase ideas when I should be focusing on what’s right in front of me.
Unfortunately, the remedy that works best can be painful and takes some effort. The only effective inoculation is the one learned through business failure. That often results in the need for continuous booster shots that can be costly and reduce the long-term viability of the entrepreneur and the organization.
The remedy for entrepreneurial diarrhea starts with looking at your cashflow and needs. It begins with you slowing down and putting effort into understanding why you’re chasing new ventures:
- Is it a need for cash?
- Is it an addiction?
- Is the new venture an excuse to avoid facing other issues at home or work?
- Are there underlying problems with your current business model that precipitate the need for additional entrepreneurial activity?
Don’t get me wrong – we need entrepreneurs and their ideas to fuel growth in our economy, pay taxes, create jobs and reduce poverty.
However, when entrepreneurs try to do too much and have limited consistency – which impedes the growth of their current business – there’s a problem.
Solving entrepreneurial wanderlust – or at the minimum acknowledging that it can be a problem if not kept in check – gives business leaders the freedom to recognize their weaknesses. That will allow them to ask their team for the support they need to deliver what they’ve already promised to their current customers, staff and stakeholders, before focusing on greener grass in other pastures.
John’s idea might be the best thing since sliced bread and it might generate millions of dollars in revenue for him and his business. Or perhaps it will only serve as a distraction and cost him thousands of dollars in lost sales and hours of effort that he could have focused on his current business.
Either way, John and his team will have to put in some time to assess the value of his idea to see whether it deserves further investment. One way is to use an opportunity analyzer. If you don’t know what that is, email me and I’ll send instructions on how to develop one.
Many entrepreneurs suffer from entrepreneurial diarrhea at some point. Fortunately, through consistency of effort, we can determine the cause of the disease and slow our minds so we can focus on the best return on our energies.
In many cases, this brings us back to our current business model with a few adjustments.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Too many ideas and not enough money? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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