… and Stay on the Entrepreneurial Hamster Wheel By Stephanie Chandler

There is a special kind of camaraderie amongst entrepreneurs. It is a bit like belonging to an exclusive club, where members celebrate the freedom of business ownership. And while freedom may be the motto, only a small percentage of entrepreneurs are truly free. Instead of running their businesses, they let their businesses run them.

It’s easy to do when the phone is ringing and there are bills to pay. Add to that the passion for what you do and a burning desire to succeed, and you have a recipe for anything but freedom. What you have is a cycle that is hard to break, which can be like trying to run a marathon on a hamster wheel. Unless you can get off the wheel and cover some mileage, you cannot make it to the finish line.

Following are some of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make that keep them running on the wheel.

Say yes to everything.

When you fail to set boundaries on your time, everyone wins but you. It is important to know the difference between an opportunity and a poor use of your time and energy. A giving spirit is a great personal quality, but can be a big business inhibitor. Overcome this by scheduling your time to complete projects, return calls, check e-mail and manage your business. When an invitation comes along that can potentially derail your schedule with no obvious benefits to your business, politely decline. Putting boundaries in place with give you a feeling of overall control and can have a dramatic impact on your productivity.

Avoid new technology because it takes too much time and effort.

The internet offers businesses more opportunities than ever and though you may not want to learn new technologies, there’s a good chance that you will miss out if you don’t embrace them. At the very least, make sure you have a website that is optimized for the search engines. Consider adding blogging to the mix as well as social media engagement via Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. These technologies are fast becoming a way of life and without them your business could be left behind.

Do it all yourself.

Entrepreneurs tend to have type-A personalities, which means we like control. That can also lead to a belief that “nobody does it better than me.” While in some cases that may be true, this is the kind of attitude that keeps you running on the wheel. If you want to grow your business, you must delegate some of the work to others so that you can have time to focus on what you do best. You can outsource functions like bookkeeping and administrative work. Consider hiring a virtual assistant or an intern. Once you begin to hand tasks over, you will truly begin to create freedom in your life.

Hang on tightly to every dollar.

Big companies typically invest at least 10% of revenues in marketing activities, and so should you. Marketing is an investment in your business and the right tactics will make the phone ring, which translates to an investment that pays for itself over and over again. Start setting aside 10% of all revenues and invest those dollars in marketing strategies that expand your business.

Don’t take time to learn.

Times are changing rapidly. New technologies, shifts in the economy and changes in the ways families conduct daily life—all of these issues and more mean that businesses need to change too. Continuing education about your industry is essential to staying competitive in a world that is changing so quickly. Spend time taking classes, reading books, participating in related trade associations and reading industry-related blogs and publications that help you maintain your competitive edge.

Figure you can take a vacation next year.

The biggest sign that your business is running you is when you stop taking vacations. If your business comes to a halt when your child stays home sick from school or you get the flu, and the idea of taking a vacation is completely out of the question, then it’s time for some major changes. Begin by developing processes for everything you do in your business and figure out how you can bring in additional support. That might simply mean forming a strategic partnership with someone who does what you do so that you can back each other up, or it might mean hiring more help. Whatever it takes, make it a priority to reclaim your freedom and reap the rewards of your hard work.

Keep doing what you’re doing.

What you have been doing in your business has gotten you to where you are now, but isn’t necessarily going to take you further. If you want to have more free time, make more money and continue growing your business, then your strategy needs to shift. Moving a business from one level to the next takes action, and for each business that action is different. It might mean building a sales force, hiring more support staff, ramping up your marketing efforts, increasing production capacity or launching new products and services. The point is that to move from one level to the next, change is essential. Embrace change and you will truly create the freedom you deserve.

About the Author ~ Stephanie Chandler is an author of several business and marketing books including “LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business” and “From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur: Make Money with Books, eBooks and Information Products.” She is also CEO of http://BusinessInfoGuide.com, a directory of resources for entrepreneurs. For author and speaker details visit http://StephanieChandler.com .