“I need your help” were the first four words out of John’s mouth when I walked into his office recently. “We are starting a new business and I want you to help us figure this out.” As I looked over at John, my first thought was, “OMG he hasn’t got this business running properly yet and he is 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 to me, I realized that I had heard this story more than once before. Having worked with John for the past 10 months, he had implemented some systems that had reduced his stress load, improved his cash flow and this had enabled him to hire some great people. The result was that he had more time on his hands and his entrepreneurial brain was working on figuring out the next business idea. This latest venture was in fact the third money making project that John had shared with me in the last 4 months. John had a typical case of entrepreneurial diarrhea and it was affecting him and his company.
Entrepreneurial Diarrhea is a condition of too many entrepreneurial ideas. This is a “disease” that affects many entrepreneurs and can be more deadly than a pandemic or economic downturn to those businesses affected. Unfortunately, the spread of this disease is random and can be difficult to detect and prevent. The effects however can be seen through organizations like flies on a pile of dung. When the leader of a company has this disease there is a lack of focus on the completion of current projects. There will be failure to accomplish set goals, and the inability of support staff 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 typical organizational dysfunction.
Transmission: Entrepreneurial Diarrhea can be caught by business owners and their teams who are not careful. While in most cases the disease is transmitted through those who seem genetically disposed, the disease can often be transmitted from spouses, family or friends. These trusting people who see that the entrepreneur is a person of action might decide to bring their latest idea to this trailblazer in hopes 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 as in the feeling of being unsettled and unfulfilled in one’s current business. It can include the need for increased cash, adrenaline 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 from their lips in liquid form instead of something more 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 exhaustion and the distraction of the disease is that the entrepreneurs and their organizations who succumb to this condition often fail to truly be successful.
The Prescription: If you are an entrepreneur whose mind is constantly chasing new ideas and ways of making money, I can emphasize with you. I have been on that pot! I know what it's like to have the time to chase ideas when I should be focusing on what is right in front of me. Unfortunately, the remedy that works the best for this condition can be painful and takes some effort. The only effective inoculation is the one that is learned through business failure, and often then can result in the need for continuous booster shots that can be costly and reduce the long-term viability of the health of the entrepreneur and the organization.
The remedy for ED starts with looking at your current cash flow and your needs. It begins with you slowing down and putting effort into understanding why you are chasing new ventures. Is it a need for Cash? Validation? Ego? Adrenaline? Is it an addiction? Is the new venture an excuse to avoid facing another issue at home or at 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 is 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 have 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 current idea to see whether it deserves further investments. One way of doing this is to use an opportunity analyzer. If you don’t know what that is, email me and I will send instructions on how to develop one for yourself.
Many entrepreneurs like you and I, or perhaps your boss suffer from entrepreneurial diarrhea at some point just like John. Fortunately, through consistency of effort we can determine the cause of our disease and slow our minds down to enable us to focus on the best return on our energies. In many cases this is our current business model with a few adjustments.
Dave Fuller MBA, is an award winning Certified Professional Business Coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Too many ideas and not enough money? Email firstname.lastname@example.org