Being an entrepreneur is a crazy, crazy thing. On one hand, it is the most rewarding endeavor imaginable, allowing you to create a real impact on a massive scale. On the other hand, it can be downright excruciating and will challenge your endurance at every twist and turn.
Regardless of what type of business you're in, you already know that the road will be bumpy. I've personally reached the brink of breakdown several times, and so has every great entrepreneur I know. After enduring my share of both failures and successes, I hope you'll find the following advice handy in aiding you on your personal journey.
Growing a company is never a straight line. While you can do your best to blaze a direct path by planning strategically, even seasoned entrepreneurs find themselves constantly needing to pivot. Recognize that, especially at first, you're going to have a lot of roadblocks and a lot of significant setbacks. It is part of the game. If you are not mentally prepared going in, you're going to give up and quit.
The good news is that if you stick with it and keep trying new things, you are also going to have some major breakthroughs. Growth can come fast, and sometimes when you least expect it. Our most recent company struggled out of the gates, racking up sales of just $300,000 in our first year. Then halfway into year two, we scored a great strategic partner, and that single deal landed us $1 million in revenue.
You've got to give yourself time to find the breakthroughs. Trust me, no matter how hopeless it may seem at times, if you continually refine and iterate, it will happen. Just remember that there are usually more setbacks than breakthroughs — it's all part of the process. When you hear smart people say to celebrate your victories, there is a lot of wisdom in that. Otherwise, it's just not worth it.
The reality is that for an entrepreneur, there is more work to do than can ever be done. It literally never ends. The key to success is getting really good at picking and choosing your battles. "Shiny object syndrome" is real, and it will kill you. We all know about the 80/20 rule, but if you're anything like me, it is easier said than done. If you want to get where you want to go, you've got to adopt an entirely new mindset.
Since you already know that time is your most valuable asset, you've got to get very clear on your strategy for investing it. Much like money, your time investments need to have an ROI. Get fanatical about only putting time into things that will pay dividends for your company for years to come, not just in the short term. For example, a one-time sales event may generate income now, but if it isn't duplicatable and scalable, it probably shouldn't be your top priority.
Any opportunity you get to use your money to save your time, take it. Regardless of how much capital you have, you will never get traction if you're focused on the wrong things. Focus on sales, marketing and product development all day, every day. Hire the best people you can afford, even if as part-time consultants.
Some of my biggest mistakes in business have been because I hung on to an idea too long. I have been sucked dry on multiple occasions, both financially and emotionally, because of my stubborn ignorance. Like many of us, I was taught from a young age that you should never quit. Because I didn't understand what quitting truly meant, I just kept on going, no matter what common sense and the P&L statement told me.
Here's the deal: You should never quit on having a dream, but accept that your dream will morph and adapt over time — otherwise, it will die. I'm not saying you shouldn't see things through or that you should go chasing the next shiny object, I just want you to continually step back and look at what you're doing and where you're going. If you need to change directions, change directions.
In hindsight, it was my ego that stopped me from killing projects or businesses that weren't serving me. I didn't want to be considered a failure, and my pride not only cost me a whole lot of time and money, but it also cost other people's time and money, too. These decisions (or lack of decisions) are actually my biggest regrets in business. In reality, nobody cares about your success or failure like you do. You might want them to, but they don't.
At the end of the day, entrepreneurship is a constant battle between success and failure. Between being loved and being hated. Between going broke and becoming wealthy. While most "normal" people might consider the continual ups and downs to be stressful, a true entrepreneur learns to love this sense of uncertainty. After all, without the uncertainty of what's to come, there can't be the hope of changing the world.
So while it is inevitable that you'll experience ups and downs, just keep going. As cliche as it sounds, it is true that the only way to lose is to quit. Never lose track of that. When you can learn to smile through both the good times and the bad, you're going to win no matter what the outcome.
FOUNDER & CEO