A month ago, I hired a youth to be my assistant through a government grant. Among so many benefits that this experience has taught me, the most unexpected one is that I realized what an entrepreneur really is.
Let me explain…
I was given advice on how to work with students and youths in general. More experienced entrepreneurs told me even before I started the whole hiring process that I need to give very clear expectations and step-by-step instructions if necessary. That set me up for a good start. I quickly learned how to delegate with detailed and structured instructions. Each time I see that my assistant is getting more confident and comfortable with a task I start to set the bar a bit higher and give him a more complex one. Gradually, my confidence in my assistant also grew and I recently just gave him a much bigger sized project and asked him to take care of it from the beginning to the end.
Maybe this is a big leap from where he is right now because I can tell that he suddenly feels very confused and overwhelmed. One day I told him to imagine himself as the project manager, which resulted in him, spending a few hours not on the planning, but just on how to start the planning. I sensed that he was stuck, so I asked if he needed some help. In the next hour, I basically finished the framework of the whole project myself, with some discussion with him. When I finished, I asked him to just follow the plan for now and start taking actions.
To be honest, I was actually surprised that I could conceive the whole plan in just one hour. “Was I getting my hopes and expectations too high, thinking that my assistant will be able to do what I can do with the same amount of time and deliver the same level of performance?” I asked myself. Then I put myself in his shoes and realized that of course, I shouldn’t be expecting that from him. It is just not fair to give someone a task like that and expect him to excel the moment he starts, knowing that he might have never taken on a similar challenge. If I were to do it myself a few months ago, I probably would have felt overwhelmed and stressed out too.
Now, a few months into exploring entrepreneurship, I am giving instructions to my assistant exactly like how I would approach a task myself. I figure out the goal, the most ideal outcomes/deliverables, metrics against which to evaluate if a task is successful or not, a rough timeline, different phases and milestones, the most immediate action steps, a list of resources that might be helpful, sometimes a few different options to tackle the challenge and possible outcomes following each option.
What interesting is that what I now take for granted is one of the biggest lessons I have learned throughout my entrepreneur journey so far – the ability to face the unknown.
I didn’t know how to start a business, I didn’t know how to cultivate relationships, I didn’t know how to build a tech product, I didn’t know anything about project management, I didn’t know how to hire an employee and grow a team, and worst of all, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I had to learn how to break a big challenge into smaller manageable tasks, I had to learn how to estimate how long something might take, I had to learn how to set goals and checkpoints, I had to learn how to experiment and adjust the plan according to the outcome, I had to learn how to handle praises as well as criticism, I had to learn how to prioritize, I had to learn how to focus on one thing at a time while having multiple things going on parallel at the same time, and recently I had to learn how to delegate. The list goes on.
Every day as an entrepreneur is a question of balancing hundreds of different things without any instructions. It is the most challenging part, but also the most rewarding one. Sometimes I need to do a lot of research because the more information I gather, the better decision I can make. But other times, I just need to listen to my heart and follow my instinct. This, at least for me, is very hard to do because I am easily influenced by others and I oftentimes lack the self-confidence to trust my own instinct.
Every day is a big emotional roller coaster as well. One moment I am thrilled to have nailed a meeting and the next moment I am scared as hell over the idea of not succeeding and letting everyone down.
I remember that just a few months ago I was shy and reluctant to admit that I am an entrepreneur. It was a big title in my mind. Now it is much more clear to me what that word really means. It is all about courageously facing the uncertainties, constantly taking risks, vigorously turning pressures into fuels, and forever learning through doing.