"You need this?"

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Perhaps one of the biggest irritants to any entrepreneur is the legal and technical red tape which larger companies can fly through, but which small business can easily trip over. It can slow your pace just seeing it up ahead. It can bring you to stop entirely and rethink everything you’d planned. It can even back you down if you succumb to the fear of what is entailed.

I learned recently how red tape can slow us down just enough to show us what we need to work on. It made me think how I sped through certain parts of a great plan and didn’t pay enough attention to crucial strategy areas. I got to the point of disillusionment, and then the next morning…I was sitting at my desk feeling grateful for the opportunity to save my idea. And I owed it all to the barriers that I had come up against by rethinking what I was trying to accomplish and how it would play out.

Red tape is scary for an entrepreneur who doesn’t have loads of capital on hand to throw at it. But red tape can actually cause us to rethink what we’re doing to the point of re-examining all the holes in our plans. It can actually show us how we’ve rushed over certain parts in our giddy excitement and neglected crucial legal, strategic and even ethical issues (which directly influence our brand down the line–and us, ourselves). In short, red tape is in reality like that person at the 8-K marker of the 10K race holding the water, asking you with a gesture “You need this?” Maybe you do need it for the last 2 K ahead before the finish line. An experienced runner might be tempted to think “It will only weaken my resolve, upset my body’s stride” but that stride may be in a very different condition 1 K down the line without a refresher in critical fluids to muscles that are nearly cashed.

We all need to refresh our outlook on what we’re doing from time to time. Red tape is, in the end, just a last ditch opportunity to do just that, before we go in too deep to back out. Red tape is…good?

  1. Thomas Rainey says:

    This makes a lot of sense. I’m in the middle of a venture right that could easily go wrong if I keep at the current pace. Eventually I’ll need to slow down and look at it all from a step back before pushing the flashing red button. Thank you for this!

  2. Great points, Mark. It’s a natural part of the process and one that can’t be dispensed with. Great post!

  3. Jeanine says:

    Inspired me to plan a day this week to slow down and think about where I am in my plans. Thanks! 😀

    • Mark Brimm says:

      My pleasure, Jeanine.

      And anyone reading this…feel free to talk about your business in my posts from now on. I welcome the chance to offer something to you as a reader of this blog–as long as it’s not boring old spam! 😀

  4. Mark, I love how you see the other side of everything. This reminds me of that bit from Randy Pausch’s last lecture where he talks about obstacles being opportunities to see how much we really care about something. That idea has stuck with me since the day I heard it.

    • Mark Brimm says:

      Thanks Will.

      It’s great to me when something that seems insurmountable transforms into something empowering. I guess this was just one of those “aha” moments for me.

  5. Oh, Mark, what entrepreneur can NOT relate to this? As it is said, ‘entrepreneurs bite off WAY more than they can chew and hope they can learn to chew very fast!” – we have to be incredibly creative and move at the speed of lightning, yet somehow keep our eye on pragmatics. It’s amazing that we don’t implode! That is a TOUGH balance, and if you spend too much time/mental effort on one side (creative or pragmatic), you’re going to blow it. As a ‘seasoned’ entrepreneur (ahem) I believe when you are equally uncomfortable with both sides, you’ve got the balance about right! Our creative energies must continually dodge and weave around those darn inevitable mounds of red tape. I hope your ‘aha’ moment was a strength builder for you! Hang in!

    • Mark Brimm says:


      I’m very grateful for every opportunity to see myself in a clearer light, since my primary function in life is creative (for better or for worse!). It’s so true about creative/pragmatic being part of a delicate balance in the midst of moving fast. Good call. Thanks for sharing some of your experience here, as well. : )

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