On paper, Bradley Poulette doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would want to hit “pause” on anything. Having worked for five startups, three of which he founded, he’s something of a mover and shaker in the Edmonton startup scene.
But like many serial entrepreneurs, Bradley found himself spread too thinly across his various projects. So he took a step back to re-evaluate.
“I was constantly transitioning from starting one company to starting another,” Bradley explained during The Struggle is Real: Just Hit Pause, a panel discussion for entrepreneurs.
I had to step back, press pause, and ask myself, ‘What are the ways I can get the most of my time and do what I really care about?’ I used to spend so much time fussing on so many details when I could have taken a more high-level view and dedicated all of these scattered efforts on one thing.”
Finding a focus
Bradley is the CEO and Co-Founder of Air Trail, an Edmonton-based software company that helps regional airlines fly more planes and do less paperwork.
Moving fast and saying yes to every opportunity was how Bradley got his hands in so many startups. But having many projects on the go distanced him from what he really wanted.
“When you’re constantly starting companies, you can never be all-in on anything. On top of that, I’d have to work a side job to pay rent, and then I’d volunteer,” he said.
So Bradley narrowed his focus and had to cut out some things that weren’t necessarily bad—but were getting in the way of what he wanted to prioritize.
The fear of going ‘all-in’
It wasn’t easy for Bradley to pare down on his priorities.
“Part of spreading yourself thin across a bunch of startups is that you have a lot of outs,” he said. “Limiting that meant putting more eggs in one basket, but I realized that I could do so with intent of figuring out if that one pursuit was going to work and giving myself a time frame to find out.”
Ultimately I had to see how spreading myself thin had impacted my relationships and my use of time,” he continued. “And doing that evaluation made me jump into the fear instead of running from it.”
And jump, he did.
“Taking the plunge with both feet into my own startup was huge and not everyone understood,” Bradley recalled. “So along with addressing my own fears, I had to address others’—often well-meaning—doubts and concerns.”
What is work-life balance, anyway?
Work-life balance is an attainable and necessary aspect of entrepreneurship—but it looks different for everyone.
“For myself—now that I’ve limited the number of startups I’m a part of—having one business to balance is easy,” Bradley said. “Last weekend, my company was actually supposed to go on a ski trip, but we opted to stay back and work instead. What would have been more stressful for us was to go and try to escape the problems we needed to solve instead of staying back and working hard to solve them.”
”I’d say that when it comes to balance, strip it down and make your own definition—even if it means working through the weekend,” he added.
Of course, there’s more to life than business. Two months ago, Bradley made the difficult decision to call off an engagement.
“I had taken a pause and reflected on my own life—I reflected on what mattered to me and where I wanted to spend my time,” he recalled. “And that wasn’t compatible with the decisions I was making and where I was allotting my time.”
For Bradley, a lot of decisions came down to simply trusting his gut.
“If you know yourself—and you probably do—and you feel doubt or discomfort when it comes to a decision, stand back and see if it makes sense for you to do that thing in business. And then practice this in every single part of your life to find out what matters to you,” he advised.
“It doesn’t mean you have step back from what matters most, it means you find out what matters most and step back from everything else.”
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