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Picking and choosing your fire

Leadership & Inspiration

Joshua Davidson wrote this article

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You’re an entrepreneur.

You already know that throughout your journey, it won’t be easy.

The same can and should be said of your day-to-day operations as an entrepreneur too. After all, throughout your entire journey, you’re tasked with the most important thing: keeping your business alive, kicking and profitable.

Of course, as with all operations, comes the fire.

I’m not talking about fire as in the adjective of being awesome. Oh no, I’m talking about the daily fires that you’re going to be responsible for putting out.

An urgent matter dealing with an unsatisfied customer.

Two of your employees not getting along.

Last minute paperwork due to your local government.

An audit from your insurance company to review for your premium the next business year.

A new opportunity falls onto your lap while trying to balance an existing opportunity.

Just a few, real examples.

Fires should be expected and should be embraced. In fact, you almost want to tackle fires as how Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn and before that, PayPal became well-known, with his coined nickname, firefighter-in-chief.

Here is the thing though that too few entrepreneurs talk about. The fact that not only will fires happen, but odds are if you’re running a growing company, will happen, often.

How you manage fires will either make you, or break you.

Not everyone has what it takes.

For many, a lot of fires will break you. You’re going to let everything you have built burn to the ground. The stress becomes too much.

For others, you realize that not all fires are created equal.

This is the key to surviving.

Sometimes, when you have multiple fires happening at once, you need to realize, it is impossible to put out all of them at once. Instead, you need to pick and choose which fires require your immediate attention, and which ones can wait, even if it does mean it will burn a bit more than you would ideally like.

A lot of entrepreneurs are perfectionists, and therefore, this isn’t an option they want to consider. However, that is naive to keep thinking, especially when your company is growing so quickly. It is impossible to be perfect when you’re trying to scale as quickly as you can. After all, being great is more often than not, good enough!

So how do you determine which fires require your immediate attention and which fires should be put to the aside until after?

Priorities.

It’s that simple.

If you know you have an emergency that can make or break your operations, odds are, that is the fire you want to focus on first. After-all, if that fire burns down everything you have built, no other fires will matter, right?

At the same time, you will have what seems to be fire from a distance, but really, the equivalent of a trash can that caught on fire due to a cigarette (old reference, but hey, you get the point). It’s not going to burn down the house today, and more importantly, it is still easily manageable.

However, using that example above, this is where great entrepreneurs come into play. You never let a fire last too long, even if it is just smoking and nothing severe has happened yet.

Once damage happens, it is hard to go back.

You need to always be paying attention when red flags are showing and resolve them before they turn into bigger issues.

AKA, become the firefighter-in-chief for your own operations.

Now, I get it.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, why even have fires in the first place?

After-all, you run a tight ship, and you’re going to be flawless at operations.

We all like to think that.

Even if you’re running a consistent company with fine-tuned operations, fires can and will happen. They always do, especially when we as entrepreneurs have factored out of our controls.

Vendors.

Services.

Employees.

Customers.

Never lull yourself into a false sense of security.

Always be ready for when a fire arises, even if it is something completely out of your control. It is up to you as the entrepreneur to put it out. Don’t try to put the blame elsewhere, since as we have already covered on this blog before, you need to focus on the solutions, not the problems if you expect to produce consistent results.

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