The Essential Qualities: Flexibility

Being able to outlast and survive is a key entrepreneurial quality. But this doesn’t mean you need to stick to your guns no matter what, ignore advice, take no note of what works and what doesn’t and in general make like the Captain of the Titanic. You also have to know when to bend.
Flexibility is key.

being flexibleDefinition: the quality of bending easily without breaking; the ability to be easily modified; willingness to change or compromise.

This stands in potential contrast with the words most commonly attributed to Malcolm X: “He who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”

Like many things in life, the truth is more subtle than the bold, revolutionary statements. You do need to stand for something. But standing for your unwavering vision of how that something must unfold is a place where you really do need to be flexible rather than dogmatic.

Flexibility does not mean giving in. It means finding another road when the one you are on becomes blocked. It means trying a new partner when the one you’re working with cannot deliver, varying your angle of attack when you don’t win and altering your strategy when you make no headway. v giving up

What does this mean as an entrepreneur?
1) You must know when to compromise
Figuring out when to compromise can be hard. Especially when we’re talking about your hopes and dreams and the expectations that have grown up around them. Try this 3-step response to set-backs to see if maybe, just maybe you might need to be flexible:
a. Do you really know better?
b. Does it really matter?
c. Check your ego
Sometimes we react as if we have all the answers because we believe so firmly in what we’re doing. It’s better to listen to someone who has more knowledge or more experience. That’s not losing, that’s wisdom.

Then as yourself how much doing it the way you had in mind is really that important. Or is it more important that the thing gets done? If you’re honest you’ll quickly see that it’s more important that the thing gets done.

The real stumbling block here is not other people nor circumstances. It is our own Ego’s. When things go wrong and you’re feeling blocked and frustrated, check your ego. Ask yourself: Am I taking offence? Is this really a problem that warrants of personal, offended response? Of do I need to check my ego, figure out the best way forward and leave it be? Mostly the last one. Really, it is almost always the last one.

2) Areas of flexibility
We good well-meaning and good advice from all over when we work for ourselves. Especially about what and where you should be flexible or negotiable. These 3 things below provide the most trouble generally speaking
a. Fees
b. Costs
c. Timelines
A lot of the time you’ll find that, despite what you worked out and quoted, things can be done for les and in less time. You’ll find that the primary skill that every entrepreneur must master is Time Management. Don’t just work for free. But be flexible if you can see a long-term advantage to working for less. It’s possible your costs are too high. Listen when others say they can get things for less. That means you can too… that’ll also benefit you in the long run.

And as for timelines…. I hate it, but timelines drift. Don’t beat yourself up or kill yourself over it if it happens to you. Clients are indecisive, mistakes happen and schedules crumble. You’ll find it way easier to deal with if you are more flexible in your attitude to them in the first place.
Not The Plan
3) Where NOT to be flexible
a. Your life
b. Your rest
c. Being paid
d. Your intellectual property
I hope these things are self-evident, but just in case.

Keep a life for yourself. When you work for yourself, it’s easy to convince yourself that, because you are finally dong what you love, it’s OK to work 24/7. It is not. In fact it’s dumb. Everyone needs downtime. It’s how our brains work. You’ll get bored and boring fast I you don’t have a life, a well that you can dip into for refreshment an inspiration. A place where you don’t have to worry about deadlines, invoices and costs.

This means getting rest, not working 18-hour days and generally pretending you are indestructible. Make sure you have restful times when your mind if not on work and when your body can actually repair and recuperate.

Never be flexible on being paid. Find out how your clients systems work, learn them, stick to them and enforce your payment terms. If you accept that it’s OK no to pay for your work, you’re accepting that it’s not worth it. That’s a long slippery slope at the bottom of which away despair and bankruptcy.

And if you’re a creative entrepreneur, make sure you are protecting your intellectual property properly, wherever it is required. Intellectual property is your best long term investment and potential pension fund: register it, get it recorded and sorted where and however you can.

The simplest rule to remember is this: Try not to get too welded for your specific vision of exactly how things are supposed to go and turn out. We’re not psychic and often, we’re not really even experts. We’re just the people who had the balls to get up and do something on our own. This means that we CAN be wrong and if you want to succeed, you need to accept that and be flexible when required.

  1. richard

    One other area of inflexibility : your values. Don’t bend to the mores of others if it isn’t congruent with who you truly are – not always easy in a hyper competitive environment. If you start disliking who you are becoming, or think the ends justify the means…be careful…you cannot fool yourself forever. Not all business is good business. Sometimes you need to walk away from a deal if it comes with self-worth erosion.

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