“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
What is a Comfort Zone?
Brown describes Comfort Zones as “Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized — where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control.” (source: Wikipedia.com)
How is the Comfort Zone created in the professional world?
Our professional lives make us perfect in what we do.
Programmers code | Sales guys sell | Accountants handle accounting.
The whole routine of our professional life is repetitive and to an extent mundane.
Inadvertently, without realizing – we start living a comfortable life in our comfort zone.
The “comfort zones” where we are at ease.
Our careers are designed in a way to make us excel in our comfort zones.
One of the reasons why we want to move out of our jobs after a certain time duration is mundaneness.
Our comfort zones in jobs become boring.
We earn by working from Mon to Fri. Spend extravagantly on weekends and are back to the routine on Mondays.
Where is the challenge?
One fine day we decide to challenge our comfort zone. You start looking for ways to move out of your comfort zone.
The ones, who are tired of their comfort zones decide to start a venture.
The others, despite hating their comfort zones do not start a venture because they do not know how to do things out of their comfort zone.
Comfort zone cripples them.
Can Entrepreneurs afford Comfort Zone?
In my job, I was convinced – I was getting into a comfort zone of living the great Indian Software Programmer dream.
A dream where you work hard, go onsite, earn extra bucks, try to get a green card and do not come back to India 🙂
When we started our business, my arrangement with my partner (brother) was simple.
I got the business and did coding for software programmes. He designed websites.
The business grew at a decent pace in initial months. Soon we had clients who wanted web development.
Now my partner was a techie who loved web design but we had to move to the next level of web development.
This is where our startup journey went a little awry.
We both were ill-prepared for the challenges of entrepreneurship. Challenges which are not restricted to one particular division of a company. I mean, you cannot solve a finance challenge by only knowing marketing.
We both were in our “comfort zone” following the same routine we followed daily in our division.
We were reluctant to come out of our comfort zones.
“The operations and delivery” of web development projects fell in no one’s comfort zone.
Partner said “I cannot learn new technology and I find it difficult to handle teams”
I said, “I can code but I cannot handle delivery of web development projects”.
No one wanted to try the new routine.
You might find the above behaviour absurd. Even i thought so until I met friends in startup space who still do not want to change their routine.
They hate change.
The fear of failure.
The risk factor in trying something new is what pulls them back from going out of their comfort zone.
They will never try something new because of their “comfort zone”
Reluctantly. I agreed to take up operations and delivery of web development projects.
I was pushed out of my comfort zone.
I hated it. The delivery process never got my 100%.
Within a few months, our top line could not compliment the bottom line.
We had a lot of money stuck in the market.
Clients refused to pay. They said, “Where is Customer Satisfaction?”.
The team had no response.
I avoided facing them. Partner never wanted to face them.
In between, I took a government project (the greatest suicide pill) of a Sugar Industry.
The aim was to automate their process.
We hired a guy from a company, which had a similar solution. I led the project half-heartedly. (I was still stuck in my marketing and sales comfort zone).
I led the project half-heartedly (I was still stuck in my marketing and sales comfort zone).
I got the work order. The person (mid-level developer) hired was to code and handle delivery.
Bad luck struck. The CEO of the sugar factory got transferred.
The CEO of the sugar factory, who gave us work order (without any bribe) got transferred.
Our delivery team changed the project as per the need of new CEO of the sugar factory.
We had to go and beg or bribe the new boss to make sure we do not lose our security deposit.
I tried half-heartedly but failed.
The task was way out of my comfort zone.
We lost our security deposit. We were blacklisted from working in the factory.
“Operations of companies” are a tedious job. I can write the same this with confidence since i lead operations of our company.
On a personal front, I feel, Project delivery teams are underappreciated.
The marketing team gets all accolades for sales.
The operation teams led by Project Managers slog day and night to make sure companies get paid on time.
They are definitely under appreciated.
Getting back to our operations failure.
Comfort Zones have no comfort in them.
In fact, they can lead to the closure of venture.
How can Entrepreneurs move out of their comfort zone?
By Shunning away, the job Mentality:
Jobs (especially in MNCs) are meant to put us in our comfort zone.
Once you start a venture, think beyond what you did in your last job.
You might be the best sales guy (the superstar) in your last company but it will just help you with the sales of your company. Businesses are a lot more than just sales.
You should be more than willing to experiment with other divisions, as and when required.
Startup Owners cannot afford to get into a comfort zone.
The two signs of knowing when you are walking in your comfort zone are:
- When you only want to do things you did in your last job on a daily basis.
- When in your new venture, you pick the department which is your “passion”. You avoid other important works as they change your schedule.
You are walking into a trap. I know it’s not easy.
Old habits die-hard. But you have to keep trying.
Comfort zones are built around people, habits, work. Change them:
I and my partner handle two different segments of our business.
Despite all our work responsibilities, we are well-informed on what happens in other person’s line of work.
We do not follow the practice to spy on another person’s work. We follow it as a practice to make sure we prepare for worse.
What if one of us falls sick?
What if we get more business than we can handle?
What if one of the division fails?
There always has to be a “backup” plan. Backup plans in startups need to have startup founders.
Our company is no more a startup but we keep trying new things, which are in the form of startups.
So both of us (as and when the need arises) are more than willing to work in other division.
There are times I am cold calling. There are times he is handling projects and vice versa.
We keep challenging our self to ensure we do not get into a comfort zone again.
As they say, once bitten. Twice Shy.
We have learned from our experiences.
Take baby steps to Change:
How about trying something new this week?
Long back, we planned to start an internet marketing division in our company. I gave myself a time frame of 6 months to start the division.
To make sure, the team joining us does not take us for a ride, I started learning the basics of SEO.
6 months was a good amount of time for me to at least learn how SEO is done.
When they joined, I had a fair idea of what they were talking about.
I follow the same practice to date. Whenever we plan to start some new service in the company I prepare myself.
My plan is to take baby steps by reading on the internet. Depending on the interest I develop and the time I have available to me, I take my learnings to the next level.
Even so, I at least try to learn the basics of what team will work on. I hate to be in the dark when they start talking in “their” language 🙂
This practice has immensely helped me with sales, operations.
Not only am I better informed to make sales, but I also have a fair understanding of what is done inside the company.
Incidentally, everything I thought was out of my comfort zone has become a part of my life.
Once Entrepreneurs get out of their comfort zone, they have the power to innovate.
Learn new things and change the way their businesses are done.
You would not want your startup to fail because you could not work out of your comfort zone..