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Pitch Yo' Self
Uncovering the Patch Identity. Balancing personal aims and business objectives to build a purpose-driven enterprise.
In Discovering Ikigai, I discussed the idea of the “entrepreneurial seizure” coined by Michael Gerber in his book The E-Myth Revisited (1995), which I had recognised in my journey early on juggling the roles and responsibilities of the technician, manager, and entrepreneur. Today I want to talk about tackling another philosophical problem tackled in the same book that every entrepreneur faces:
This post will discuss a fundamental characteristic of the entrepreneurial mindset required to overcome the “entrepreneurial seizure”:
You are many things, but you are not your business.
This mindset is essential to build a business fulfilling your primary aim. Your primary aim as an individual and your business goals and objectives are distinctly two different things. You must develop a business strategy that is separate from your identity.
A bit of back story first before we dive in.
The Patch Identity
I had many options to consider when I started my business in 2021.
I first considered trading as a sole trader under my name or setting up a limited company (similar to an LLC in North America) called “Sealan Cronin Ltd.” or something similar. My company would then be me and forever me—a company of one. This approach would’ve been a much simpler concept to reason with and, in hindsight, would’ve more accurately reflected the contracts I was working on.
Instead, I skipped the freelancer part and formed a private limited company under a separate identity.
Patch Digital Limited was born.
Why the name? Well, I’m glad you asked! 😉
I nearly began Patch Digital when I was freelancing back in 2009. Buster, the family Jack Russell Terrier, provided the initial spark of inspiration, with his big brown patch covering his left eye, as he would lay his head lovingly on my keyboard as I plugged away programming.
So, I ran with the word ‘Patch’.
Of course, before I did anything, I checked if a good domain name was available, claimed my Twitter handle, and started to post-rationalise from there. I remember playing word association games in my head, beginning with the dictionary definition and exploring the etymology. I liked the idea of a Patch Request (HTTP Method) or digital agency that would “mend or strengthen” websites for clients.
Without too much thought, I went with it. Still, I won more work by presenting as a digital agency rather than a freelancer. I could use my little agency background to provide clients with the necessary level of client experience to make it work. After about seven months, however, I felt I had more to learn, wound down my shop, and returned to working full-time.
So here I am now, giving Patch Digital a real chance at life.
Company of One
One of the first things I did to get the ball rolling was create a simple web page. I launched this without much fanfare, and other than breathing new life into my social media handles, I tempted any marketing efforts until I had a plan.
At this early stage, I didn’t need to spend too much time developing the brand (as tempting as it was), so I kept everything relatively straightforward. However, strangely, I struggled to write a simple “about us” blurb:
Is it “we” or “I”?
The lack of vision was one thing, but I knew it was important to remain honest and authentic in creating a separate entity. But I also knew my immediate clients were hiring “me” at the end of the day. I didn’t want to instil a false pretence that Patch Digital was more than just me until I hired someone.
I could only dwell on this briefly as I had taken on lots of work to pay the bills. I bodged it, and in typical “Cobbler’s Shoes” fashion, my web presence and minimal identity for “Patch Digital”, quickly fell out of sync with my active projects. In many ways, it didn’t represent me or the company I wanted to build. It still doesn’t (stay tuned?)
I later learnt that this was another fairly common problem people face when starting a business for the first time and again discussed in The E-Myth Revisited in detail. The solution to break free of this identity crisis was to develop my ‘personal’ aims to guide my decisions and actions in my personal and professional life. Only then could I more confidently create a business with a clear and authentic value proposition and evaluate the opportunities ahead.
Your Primary Aim
Here are some tough questions for you:
What do I want my life to look like in five years? Ten years?
What do I want to be doing every day?
What do I want to have accomplished in my personal and professional life?
From how I see it, there were two parts to the puzzle to answer these questions:
Identify your short, medium, and long-term needs.
Create a rich picture vision of what you want your life to look like.
With these two activities, you can create intentional actions to help you reach these goals and design a business to serve you, not it.
Let’s start with “needs”.
We all have different needs that drive our motivation to do things. To understand this, we often point to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
We often conceptualise Maslow’s theory of motivation internally as a rigid pyramid that we all must climb neatly stacked upon one another. In reality, the intensity of each need fluctuates as we work on ourselves. Nonetheless, it provides a good starting point to level your short and long-term needs:
Let’s break it down.
Humans have some basic needs to survive: access to food, water, shelter, and warmth. Even if you’re wealthy, it’s essential to have these needs met before pursuing higher goals.
In the startup/bootstrapping community, having enough savings to cover these basic needs is known as “having a runway”.
Prioritising your mental and physical health is essential when starting your own business. With our basic needs met, we can focus on our psychological needs, which are crucial for our well-being, mental health, and self-esteem. These needs include belongingness, love, and other interconnected factors that affect each other.
At the top of the triangle is self-actualisation *heavenly sound effect* is the highest level of personal growth, where we become the best version of ourselves and realise our potential. This holy grail involves personal growth, creativity and self-expression, and finding purpose and meaning in our lives. As an entrepreneur, this could mean seeking professional development, being innovative, and finding meaning in our work.
In my view:
Establishing a purpose-driven business that addresses the world’s needs is a profound and transformative form of self-actualisation. Especially if it enables you to achieve personal growth, unleash your creativity, and make a lasting, positive impact on society.
However, you can’t just jump to the top. You have to build the business from the ground up. Understanding and addressing your needs across all categories — ‘basic’, psychological, and self-fulfilment—is crucial for creating a successful and fulfilling entrepreneurial journey.
To get a clear picture of your immediate, short-term, and long-term needs, take some time to brainstorm and evaluate how your personal and professional life aligns with these categories. Identify areas that require immediate attention, needs that should be satisfied soon-ish and long-term goals that can form the foundation for future projects.
I use Freeform for this.
By prioritising and addressing your needs systematically, you can create a more balanced and focused approach to your entrepreneurial endeavours, ensuring that your business venture achieves financial success and contributes to your overall well-being and personal satisfaction.
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The Big Picture
Next, create a vivid and concrete vision of your future:
Imagine accomplishing your personal and professional goals five or ten years from now.
Consider various aspects of your life, such as financial stability, property ownership, relationships, family, hobbies, travel, personal growth, work-life balance, and community involvement.
Visualise the details of this future world, including the activities you’ll engage in daily, the people you’ll be surrounded by, and the impact you’ll have on your community.
I used Freeform to visualise the elements that would make up this future world. I then picked out all the aspects, wrote SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) like goals, and wrote a small paragraph describing each. When do you want to be mortgage-free? How do you want to give back to society?
For example, my primary aim categories include:
Financial Stability & Security 💰
Property Ownership 🏡
Marriage & Family ❤️
Hobbies & Interests 👾
Travel & Adventure ✈️
Personal Growth & Learning 🧠
Positive Work-Life Balance 🧘♂️
Community & Social Responsibility ♻️
Once you’ve painted this vivid picture of your future, ask yourself:
How much money do I need to achieve my goals? 💰
Creating a business with $1mm annual recurring revenue (AAR) is much easier than creating a $50mm one. So, be realistic in your assessment, and determine if you need a specific amount o accomplish everything you’ve envisioned. This exercise will help you set realistic financial targets and align your business objectives with your aspirations.
Pitch Yo’ Self
So, you’ve figured out what you need, and you’ve got a vision for the life you want. Now let’s make it happen.
How does this business help you satisfy those needs and help you get what you want?
You may be rushing to invest in yourself, but are you willing to invest in the business? One way to think of this process is creating a pitch deck for yourself, where you sell the business idea to yourself, ensuring it’s worth your time and effort. Treat it like Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank.
If you have a partner, get up and project your slides to the TV and torture them until you come up with something you both believe in!
In the same light, be prepared to walk away from a business. You can decide which entrepreneurial opportunities are worth pursuing by carefully evaluating and pitching the business to yourself. Like leaving a job, it’s better to cut an experience short rather than spend years of your life on something that doesn’t get you closer to where you want to be.
Working at a job for a long time becomes a big part of who you are. This welding of identities is especially true if you put much effort into helping the company succeed, as I did as President & CTO of a digital agency. I was paid a six-figure salary and enjoyed lots of responsibilities and perks, so my job became a big part of how I valued myself.
A person’s job can play a significant role in shaping their identity.
Understanding the distinction between yourself and your business is crucial for achieving success and personal fulfilment in your entrepreneurial journey. You’ve taken the necessary steps towards aligning your personal and professional goals by identifying your needs, creating a vivid picture of your future, and pitching the business to yourself.
It’s essential to remember that your aims and your business objectives may evolve (mine certainly have!) As you grow and learn, your priorities may shift, and it’s crucial to reassess your needs and vision periodically to ensure that you’re still on the right track. Always be prepared to pivot or make changes to maintain alignment between your personal and professional life.
So, what did you discover about your needs and your future vision? How does your current business idea align with your aims? Are you willing to take the risks and sacrifice to achieve your goals?
Thanks a million,
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