Out Of My Depth

Saturday morning coffee is time for Dusty and I to chat endlessly about so many things.  We really do run the gamut of topics, but this past Saturday I was sharing with him the story of a past consulting client that reminded me of how truly concrete our barriers can seem, no matter how much success we have already achieved.

This particular client owned a bricks and mortar business, built from the ground up, creating several revenue streams and building a family like culture that made him quite proud.  The cold storage & transportation industry isn’t exactly sexy, but  he had proven that it could be very profitable.

Where it Goes Wrong

With 75 employees, 10 million a year in revenues, 3 revenue streams and an office bigger than most condos in Toronto, this client had exceeded every hope or dream for his company.  That is until 3 things happened.  First his wife became very ill.  It was clear that they adored one another because he was emotional and teary-eyed the instant he started sharing his story.  He had to stop several times to collect himself to get through it.  No one at the company had any idea.  Even though the family culture he had created was clearly evident, he had not shared about her illness with anyone.

The second thing was a conflict that had been brewing with one team member.  A very important team member who was not only the head of his HR, but also the wife of his logistics manager.  She had no bones about making it clear that she wanted things done her way or no way at all.  Of course, her way was in complete conflict with the company’s values and culture.

Number 3 was a decision about what steps to take to grow the company to the next level.  As I asked questions I learned that this was pretty much the same leveling up plan that he had used before in his expansion, had served him quite well and he was in a safe financial position to take this calculated risk.  The return on investment was quite safe and the risk of failure or damage was next to nothing.

Revelations

I remember sitting in this his vast office, listening to his explain all of this to me with complete awareness that he had a simple decision to move ahead with the expansion.  I also remember the moment he stopped dead in his tracks as he was pacing around his desk, looked me straight in the eyes and said ” I think I am out of my depth”

Here he was an entrepreneur who truly was salt of the earth kind of guy, made rags to riches look like a breeze, but at $10 million dollars, he felt out of his depth.  Not because of the size of the company or the amount of work that lay ahead of him.  It was not even because of one solitary factor.  When I asked him what it was exactly that made him feel like he was out of his depth he responded with “I’m stuck, feeling defeated and have no idea how to bounce back.”

Letting that sink in for a moment I realized it all came down to his lack of resilience.  His perseverance and determination had been rattled.  On top of that he was lacking some skills that could help him navigate this turbulent time.  In his mind he believed he couldn’t go any further, so he stalled.  He had become frozen in taking the next steps that he knew he needed to take and suddenly felt unable to make decisions.  Now second-guessing and doubting himself, he was convinced that he couldn’t move beyond this.

How Does a Successful Person Feel Like a Failure

It begs the question, how does an entrepreneur with a successful 10 million dollar company suddenly hit a point where he doesn’t believe he is capable of running a company he built.  The exact same way some entrepreneurs do even when they’ve barely launched their business.  Being an entrepreneur requires grit and a plan.  When either of those is missing, the ability for success is significantly diminished.  Actually, the success of anyone doing anything without grit is significantly diminished.  Ask Angela Duckworth.  She is my favourite go to for research and can tell you all about the latest research on grit and why it’s so important.

So what’s the solution?  You can increase your grit score.  You can build a plan.  With both of those in place, you will be able to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

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