Embrace the hard stuff first


Do you tend to skip the difficult aspects of your entrepreneurial journey? Do you find you want to avoid, delegate or outsource challenging tasks?

Embracing the hard stuff is essential for building a growth company.

The demise of IBM and the power of doing the hard things: During the rise of the PC industry, IBM, the computer leader, chose to outsource the development and control of their PC standard. By licensing Microsoft’s operating system with no exclusivity or purchase option, and avoiding the hard stuff of developing or acquiring a PC operating system, IBM unknowingly planted the seeds of their descent into mediocrity.

The Facebook Phenomenon: Lessons in Hard Choices: When three college students came up with a brilliant idea for a college campus social platform, they outsourced the demanding task of coding to a fellow student named Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg took the idea and built the social media giant Facebook. This example highlights the potential risks associated with dodging the hard stuff and relinquishing control over critical aspects of your business.

The importance of prioritizing difficult things: Entrepreneur Mark Knudson, (Bootstrap to billions) who has successfully built businesses in the medical device industry advocates tackling the hard stuff first. Knudson’s rule of thumb is to validate the viability of a new medical device while there is still sufficient financial backing. Many entrepreneurs mistakenly prioritize easier tasks and leave the difficult challenges for later stages. Unfortunately, delaying the test of difficult tasks can lead to financial constraints or insurmountable hurdles that hinder progress.

Cracking the code of billion dollar entrepreneurs (NDE): Billion dollar Entrepreneurs building billion-dollar businesses in emerging trends have an even greater need to focus on the hard stuff. In an industry where the key factors for dominance are unknown, three strategies can help navigate the challenging terrain.

#1. Focus on key segment and unmet needs. Identify the segment that benefits most from the emerging trend and understand their unmet needs. Examples include Bill Gates who recognized the benefits of personal computers for small businesses and consumers, while IBM failed to adjust its business focus accordingly. Michael Dell focused on the direct-to-consumer model and dominated PCs.

#2. Take advantage of the competitive advantage. Anticipate how competitors will try to outperform you and devise strategies to outperform them. Sam Walton’s focus on small towns and building the necessary infrastructure to supply his stores set him apart from direct competitors such as Kmart and Target. Steve Shank realized that accreditation was key to Capella’s success. These were the hard things – and what he focused on.

#3. Be ready to run. Entrepreneurs rarely find the perfect strategy at the start of the venture and the ability to pivot is crucial. Bill Gates moved from software development to operating system sales, while Sam Walton moved from small stores to larger retail spaces. Horst switched from beauty salons to beauty schools when his hairdressers left him – after he trained them. The hard part in hairdressing was training. He sold his salons. started schools, expanded into cosmetics and sold for hundreds of millions years later.

MY TAKE: In your entrepreneurial journey, it is critical to identify the difficult things and face them head-on. Avoid redirecting resources until you resolve the critical issue. Learn from the examples of industry giants who understood the value of embracing challenges and remember that success often lies outside the comfort zone. Prioritizing the hard stuff paves the way for long-term growth and success.