The Entrepreneurial Cycle, How Businesses Are Created And Destroyed, And My Huge Takeaway From 2013

Last Updated on May 31, 2016  

 

I’ve been in this business in one way or another for 15 years now – and counting. Some would believe that after that much time, I should have everything figured out.

HAHAHAHAHAHA! 🙂

The thing about being a solopreneur is that you are the sole creator of everything. Everything revolves around you. That means that anything that is good has to be thought up by you and implemented by you. But, it also means that if you don’t execute, not much happens.

The good, the bad and the ugly – it is all YOUR responsibility when you are the solopreneur.

And, even if you have assistants (which I have), the truth is that they don’t do anything unless I tell them to. So, once again, it is all up to me.

Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s not to say that I don’t plan to fully systematize my business so others can take full responsibility for certain aspects of it, but I personally can’t imagine a life where I wasn’t the one responsible for my own success or failure.

In this post, I’m going to do something a little different.

I’m going to stop talking about how to do things or what has gone right… and I’m instead going to talk about what didn’t go right. And in the process, I’m going to share a pretty huge realization I have had.

See, 2013 has been a good year – but it has also been a sorta flat year for me and the Academy.

What It’s Like Doing This For 15 Years

I got started in this business in 1998. Now, at the time, the furthest thing from my mind was “business”. I started up a tech blog talking about nerdy things like building PCs and how computers worked. It wasn’t for a year or two before I started making much money with that – and even then I sorta fell into it. It was around 2000 that I actually started taking a potential monetary side of this gig seriously.

The rest is history. After 10 years of tech blogging, I decided to branch out. Hence the site which would eventually turn into Blog Marketing Academy was born. You can read more of my back story here.

15 years is a long time. I’ve essentially seen this industry sprout up from nothing and become what it is today.

But, things have evolved a lot.

The technology niche isn’t the fiery group of primarily independent bloggers it was when I started out. Today, the tech niche is dominated by big corporate media empires with huge staffs and huge budgets. It is also extremely news-oriented now, which leads to one of the loudest echo chambers I have ever seen.

And the blogging and marketing niche is just – NOISY. Very noisy. This space is even more noisy when you consider that the people in it KNOW HOW to create content which attracts attention. So, all these people vying for our limited attention and – yes – it is noisy.

So, what happens is that I begin to feel jaded.

I begin to feel like I’ve seen it all before. Like there is not a lot more to say and do which hasn’t been covered numerous times over.

In short, I get burnt out.

2013 – The Year of Just Keeping On Keeping On

Yes, that’s kinda what this year has been for me.

Don’t get me wrong… I love what I do. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and I love helping others find success with their blogging efforts.

But, yeah… I start to feel a little jaded. With few exceptions, I have been at this for longer than pretty much every other “big name” you can think of in this niche.

It is common advice in this niche to begin with your passion and then “monetize”. My students know I’m not a fan of that approach, but passion is still pretty important as a motivating factor. And that has been a bit of an issue for me. Lack of passion.

For that reason, the business has sort of coasted through 2013. One fantastic thing about what I have set up is that the business has the kind of inertia that can sustain itself, but when the owner stops creating it actively, it can’t help but wane.

What Happens When You Stop Creating Your Business…

It could be said about all things that there is a beginning, a survival phase, and then it ends. That is the lifespan of all things.

But, if you take this cycle and look at it from the perspective of INTENTION, you get a slightly different picture.

In the beginning, it starts with a thought. That thought is an intention to CREATE. Creation happens.

Then, we go into the survival phase. But, what is that, really? Is the thing we created just sorta coasting? No. In fact, it is constant, continuing CREATION. Every single day, we do things to actively create the original intention.

Then finally, there comes the end days. All things come to an end eventually. But, does it just die of its own accord? No. There is a different INTENTION which creates something counter to the original creation.

The Entrepreneur Cycle of Action

So, if you take a sample business…

An entrepreneur thinks up an idea and creates a business. Through his actions to promote the business, to create new products, to hire people, to develop systems… all these actions add up to the continued creation which makes the business survive. And it should be looked at that way – as a creation. Not just busy-work, but active creation of the intention of the business.

In the end, the business will cease to exist. But, why? Well, it could be because the entrepreneur simply decided to shut it down. But, another way which happens to many is that they begin creating OTHER things. They create things which run counter to the original intention of the business. The net effect is destruction of the business.

As a real-life example, take my original business of my tech blog. I built that site up to over 300,000 visitors per month, making a solid six-figure income. In fact, it was that success which eventually led me into creating the Blog Marketing Academy. But, then what happened?

My passions shifted. I started to spend more time on this site than on my tech site. In other words, I was creating something ELSE and not actively creating my original business. In the interim, the numerous Google SEO changes happened and the niche changed a lot around me and the net effect is that my original tech blog is not what it was a few years ago. Traffic has dropped quite a bit. And the worse thing about it is that… I can’t say I care.

Now, that’s really something. The site got smacked around and I, as the entrepreneur, just don’t have the motivation to go and do anything about it. I’ve personally moved on from the technology niche. I’m just not all that interested. The “jaded” point happened a long damn time ago.

Today, I’m mentally “done” with my original tech site. And I’m currently debating what to do with it. I might sell it. I’m undecided.

My “Oh Shit” Realization

When you take into account this business cycle of the entrepreneur – and how it demonstrated itself with my tech blog – I then come back to the Academy.

Now, I’m personally much more passionate about this business. As I said before, I really love what I do and I love working with people on their businesses. But, a moment came when I realized I was following a pattern.

That moment came just days ago. I was doing some strategy planning for 2014. I went back and looked at my strategy plans I had laid out for 2013. What I saw SHOOK ME.

I was literally sitting there at my desk shaking my head.

… because I realized that I had taken very little concerted effort on a majority of those strategy plans I had laid out a year ago.

What’s more… almost every single one of those things I listed were things I was still thinking.

It was like the year went by and I just coasted through it.

The survival phase of the entrepreneur cycle had stopped being “active creation” and devolved down to merely “survival”.

I allowed myself to fall into a pit of being kinda jaded – of thinking I’ve seen it all before. And, quite frankly, in the meantime, others in my space who are still in active creation mode have just kept on expanding while I haven’t.

My 2 Big Mistakes of 2013

Which brings me right to my two primary lessons of the year:

  1. I stopped actively creating my business and allowed myself to get stuck in “survival mode”.
  2. I stopped doing successful actions which got me good results in the past.

Funny thing is that my second mistake is really just a result of the first.

Those successful actions I found in the past were found because I was actively creating the business. I was trying new things. I was implementing new ideas. When I went into survival mode, that’s where laziness is allowed to set in.

And being the solopreneur, this mindset can go further than just business. Often, what is happening in our personal lives affects the business (and vice versa), too. For example, I wanted to lose weight this year (sound familiar, huh?), but I didn’t. Because I was just maintaining (aka surviving) rather than actively CREATING a healthier, skinny body.

How I’m Creating 2014

It isn’t something you hope for. It isn’t something you just imagine and put on your “vision board”, sing kumbaya and it will pop out because of the law of attraction.

One thing I know (and obviously recently re-realized) is that the only way to accomplish any goal you have is to actively create the circumstances of that goal’s success.

In other words, you ask yourself what the accomplishment of your goal actually looks like. Then, you spot the differences between your current reality and the reality that you want to create. And then you actively create those circumstances.

It isn’t something you hope for. It isn’t something you just imagine and put on your “vision board”, sing kumbaya and it will pop out because of the law of attraction.

No, it takes active creation.

So, if my 2013 was a year of survival, I want my 2014 to be a year where I jump back into active creation of my business.

It starts out with asking myself what I want my business to look like.

One of the thing I must accept for myself is that I am no longer passionate about my technology blog. It is time to let go of that thing. I know full well that if I actually applied my knowledge to it and actively created it again, I could get the stats up. The problem is that I don’t care all that much – and that’s a STRONG sign that it is time for me to move on. What form that takes, I don’t know. But, I have realized that after years of running that site, it is time for me to clock out of that one.

As for the Blog Marketing Academy, it is the exact opposite. I’m not done here. 🙂 I have more in me. I care too much about the people I serve and what they’re doing. And I firmly believe that I have a combination of skills and an approach that others don’t – and it is my responsibility to impart that to others and help them implement.

The theme words for the Blog Marketing Academy for 2014 are:

  • Promote. I will be doing a lot more active outreach efforts for 2014. A lot more than just blogging.
  • Produce. Going to rally my team up, expand it, and get busy.
  • Deliver. My focus on delivery to my customers is going to increase. My Academy students are the backbone of this whole operation. But, I have more to deliver (a lot more).

I’ll have more to say about this later. 😉

Lastly, there’s the question of… what’s next?

As an entrepreneur, I am a creator. In the end, it isn’t just about making money. It is about what we’re CREATING.

As I wrap up my tech blogging career and hit the accelerator on my intentions for the Academy, I must ask… what else?

I’ve been doing this long enough to know more than most that NOTHING is constant. I would be hallucinating to think that my business is going to look the same in 5-10 years as it does today. As I said above, there is an entrepreneurial cycle and the end of it is inevitable.

So, what’s my next gig?

I’m not sure yet, but I’ve felt for some time that it probably lies in the area of software creation. In solving people’s problems through software.

Many of my readers may not know that my background actually lies in the area of software. I got my degree in information systems. I’ve done my share of web programming, and at one point actually programmed a full content management system that rivaled WordPress itself. What kicked me out of that business was, well… WordPress. It was awesome and it was free. 🙂 But, point is that I am no stranger to the world of software.

And I know more than most the potential of a solid software solution backed up by content marketing. I have skills in both. I’m reminded of a Facebook post that my friend, Erica Douglass, posted days ago:

I don’t have a specific idea in mind at this point, however my gut tells me that this is my next creation. Something software related.

If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears. 🙂

The Reminder That I’m Posting At My Desk

I wanted to sit down and capture the idea behind this post. To remind me of the purpose of being an entrepreneur in the first place… and hopefully help keep me out of merely operating in “survival mode” moving forward.

So, I sat down and wrote this quick thing. I’m going to print it and post it at my desk.

You may like it as well and want to do the same. And in the process of giving it to you, I’m going to try something out…

Share this post with your network and immediately unlock your download link to the document. No opt-in necessary. Just help me spread the word on this post.

[sociallocker id=”8675″] entrepreneurial-cycle-doc
Click to download this PDF you can print and post in your office.[/sociallocker]

After That, Answer This Question Below…

I would like for you to answer a question for me below in the comments. And that question is…

What are YOU going to actively create in 2014?

Think it over. And I hope that you realize that this is more than just a “new years resolution”. I want you to really think in terms of CREATION.

Creation isn’t the same as adaptation, or “making due”, or adjustment to your environment. It is an actual moment of intention – and of creation to bring that intention to fruition.

What is it for you?


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  • Kelly Diels says:

    David, it’s been a long time since I’ve been motivated – or moved – to leave a comment anywhere.

    Like you, I’ve become jaded and I disconnected. Entirely. My business and my relationships have suffered…2013 wasn’t just ‘survival mode’, it was self-sabotage.

    And I’m over that nonsense. Time to get excited and get to work. Can’t wait to see where we go on the ride.

  • Your post about 2013 has mirrored my own year, this year has all been about surviving it, rather than about creation. Like you say being a solo entrepreneur is what I enjoy but it is hard to be creative when life hits you with sucker punches which I have had several of this year. But onwards and upwards I am slowly getting my creative vibe back and I am sure 2014 will be an awesome year.

  • Ann Vertel says:

    David – found myself saying “me too” a lot while reading your post. Thanks for your transparency, it is enormously refreshing. Lately, when I find myself down a rabbit hole (I’m a life-long learner!), the question I have been asking myself is, “Are you consuming or creating?” I’ve been stunned by the number of times the answer is, “consuming.” Then I quickly shift my focus to actually producing something! Best of success to you in 2014 🙂
    – Ann

    • David Risley says:

      Thanks so much, Ann. 🙂

  • Andre Kasberger says:

    Excellent Post David and a good reminder that ideas w/o action and measurement are just that ideas. Thanks for the reminder of what I need to get busy with.

  • Thanks David for telling it like it is (as usual). I see 2014 as the year I finally get out of the mindset of no urgency, there’s always tomorrow, I’m not smart enough, etc.. Sorry to hear about pcmech. Great job over there, but we need the value that you give us Right Here.
    You might want to check out Andrew Youderian over at ecommercefuel.com he just sold his online Trolling Motor business in a way I had never thought of. Social Locker (Great Idea)

  • I really like this post…..the cycle can be applied to all parts of your life. Thanks for sharing your struggles and perspective. Your transparency and authenticity promotes my own awareness so that I can identify/acknowledge, learn from and grow. Best Wishes for 2014!

  • YES!!!! Go for the software development. Product development is the way to go. I have come to that realization in my own business. Like you, I have been in the same industry for more than 15 years. (For me, it’s eLearning.) I created and sold two online universities for just over seven figures. I’ve also created individual courses exclusively using animated video and a “movie” approach. (Storytelling where the learners influence the outcome of the story based in learning points, rather than just info-dumps.) This year I have finally decided to focus on a completely different niche within that same industry. And ONLY on that niche. My problem has always been chasing too many niches and taking on every single bit of work that came my way. Now, I am learning (slowly) the art of refinement and selectivity. 🙂

  • Tim Blankenship says:

    David, really good article. I liked the entrepreneurial cycle you talked about. I am sure you have heard the numbers as it pertains to business failures through the years. The most recent numbers i heard were 30% fail in first 3 years and 50% fail by the 5th year. But nobody ever said why. Your entrepreneurial cycle provides the why.

    Your comment about “conflicting creations” really struck a cord. I am entering my third year as a “solopreneur” and already feeling distracted and thinking of new things. Things that are already slowly taking me away from what made my business successful.

    Thanks for the post, very insightful.

  • Thanks for this David. Really like that you’re honest and keep it real. I’m all fired up for 2014 and I will be working on my VFP as you’ve taught me in the Academy and basically work on ironing out my USP. I also want to spend some time to really understand the people in my niche so I can really connect with them through my products, free offers and my content. All this will be powered by the Blog Marketing Academy … and hard work of course 🙂

    • Sorry David, just one more thing: how did you lock the pdf and require sharing on social media? Really cool and would love to do that on my site. Thanks again.

      • David Risley says:

        Its a plug-in I recently found called Social Locker, over on CodeCanyon.

        • Thanks a lot David. I’ll be sure to check it out.

    • David Risley says:

      Awesome, Stephen. 🙂 Let me know if I can help… I’m about to do some marketing surveying myself, so will be sure to document it all for Academy students.

  • Mike Cliffe-Jones says:

    I recognise “survival mode” although, for me, the cycles are shorter – I tend to go into that mode a couple of times a year for short periods. The problem most entrepreneurs face is that we love shiny new things, and we’d rather be creating something new than beavering away at something we’ve done a thousand times before – even if we know the latter is where we make our money.

    The trick, and my focus for 2014, is to achieve a balance between them. I want to plan enough shiny newness to keep me motivated, whilst at the same time continuing to nurture and grow what I know works and pays the bills.

    • David Risley says:

      Yep. We all need some shiny newness. 🙂 Thanks, Mike. Hope things are going well for you. 🙂

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