In Michael E. Gerber’s book “The E Myth Revisited” he writes in detail about The Comfort Zone – the boundary within which a business owner feels secure and in control.
Gerber predicts that as a business grows and becomes more complex you will be pushed out of your comfort zone. How you react to this will ultimately determine the long-term prospects of your business.
Launching a new software product is a pretty uncomfortable position to be in. There’s a lot of work to be done before revenue is predictable enough to cover overheads and founder salaries on a consistent basis.
This can be a stressful time so anything resembling a comfort zone sounds like a magical place. You’re crying out for the opportunity to get some extra headspace, to be less reactive, and to make more strategic decisions. When you’re not scrambling around for your first few sales you can be much more deliberate. What a place to be!
When you do reach that first comfort zone it can be tempting to stay there. This can happen both gradually and accidentally. Without realising it you can think more about protecting what you worked so hard to achieve instead of pushing to the next level. It might take months for you to realise this so to avoid long-term stagnation it’s important that you spot the warning signs.
When I get comfortable everything seems to slow down. The days feel longer but I achieve less. I’m more easily distracted and it takes me forever to complete fairly basic tasks.
The biggest sign that I’m getting too comfortable is that my to-do list is full of product related activities. As a designer it’s easy to forget about sales and marketing when I’m comfortable. Even though I may feel good about the work I’m doing each day, it’s ultimately bad for business.
This is a common trap for startup founders since we’re mostly from a product background, or what Gerber would refer to as a ‘technician-turned-business-owner’.
If you don’t want to have any regrets about the fate of your business then I find it helpful to remember just one line from Gerber’s book:
Comfort makes cowards of us all.