Not enough entrepreneurs talk about the Panic of Space. I wish they would.
If you aren’t familiar with the Panic of Space, this is what it looks like:
Find rockstar team
Delegate the doing stuff
Sit and stare at the computer screen
That’s a supremely over-simplistic view of the Panic of Space, but it’s exactly what happens to you if you aren’t used to not doing Five Hundred Thousand Billion Things In Any Given Day.
You sit and stare.
You might scroll.
You might even do some lightweight social somethings, being hyper responsive on email, feeling like you’re doing things.
But at some point you catch yourself sitting and staring.
And you think, Holy spaceballs this is not what I anticipated. (Or much more ribald versions of same.)
The entire reason why you end up in the Panic of Space is because you didn’t go deep enough on your reason for bringing in people to help out with the work. It’s not so you can spend your time scrolling through Twitter, or Facebook, or Gab, or whatever is your version of crack that week. It’s not so you can fart about setting up systems and things (though that’s at least useful work). It’s not even so you can clear out your inbox.
It’s so you can get out there and sell more.
There is a hedonistic pull in that moment of Space, however, that makes it difficult to get into Sales Mode. It’s that time when you realise that you aren’t required on the tools all the time, and it’s easy to relax into it. You know the thing: Get up a bit later, start work a bit later, faff about calling people, enjoying the spaciousness in your day.
But relaxing into it is just being a Lazy Bastard. You’re effectively using your team to bring you an income, without justifying the reason for your existence in the business.
It’s like being a dole-bludger but on your own money. How screwed up is that!
Hell, man, I’ve done it. I’ve gotten slack about things. I’ve gotten into a mode where I was literally spinning my wheels with busywork, as if that justifies my place.
You know what happened?
I bled cash.
I bled cash, I lost clients, and I had to let literally everybody go, and do everything myself again.
Most of us don’t go into business in order to be The Sales Guy; but unless you’re comfortable with going out and flogging what you do, and reorienting yourself to be that person, why on earth are you attempting to scale up?
At some point, yes, you’ll be able to hand off the sales stuff to someone; just not in the early days. Your early days of this type of scale might be in your first three months; they might be in your sixth year (if you’re like me). Wherever it falls, it’s still early for you.
Those early days are the times when you’ll really feel it if you’re not selling something that people want. It’s easy enough to get by when it’s just you. It’s easy enough to sell a service or a product and make enough to live on, when you only have to support yourself. It’s easy enough to push aside the idea that maybe you did this arse-about.
As soon as there are other hands involved - especially if you love them and want to keep them working with you! - you simply have to sell. There isn’t much glamorous about selling.
Not, that is, until you work out how to make it work for you. Once you do that, it makes you feel like The Queen.
In the past fortnight, I’ll admit: I had a moment of the Panic of Space. But I caught myself. I noticed what I was doing. And I realised that what I hadn’t done was create a system for me. If X, then Y. If work goes to someone else, get on the sales cycle, and go hard. And here’s how and why and when to do that.
Sales, remember, is not marketing, even though they are each other’s favourite booty-call when everything’s working well.
My lesson for you, darling reader, is this: Think beyond the next thing. If you achieve the next thing, what then? What does it actually mean for you? How will you actually be contributing?
Goals are great. But without the underlying work, you might find yourself sitting at your desk, staring mindlessly into space, and scrolling - and not realising what you’ve done.