Starting your own business is easy. Find a product or service to sell, register your name, open a bank account, and boom, you have a business. But buildinga lasting, profitable business is challenging, and there is no roadmap for success. You can read all the business, motivational, and self-improvement books in the world, but everyone’s journey is different and no one will hold your hand through the trials and tribulations. So strap in, because it’s a long and winding road~
In case you’re wondering what that road looks like, I’ve found it’s similar for most entrepreneurs. The ups and downs, the highs and lows, the peaks and valleys. That’s the life of an entrepreneur, and not everyone’s cut out for it.
The Entrepreneur’s Journey
Phase 1: The White Light Experience
You quit your job. You set your business up, and it’s finally time to show the world what you’ve created. The first phase of starting a new business comes with a white light experience. It may even be spiritual. You’re finally liberated and in control of your own destiny. It feels good. Bravo!
Phase 2: Get To Work
The next few months are followed by a relentless pursuit of your dream. You’re telling everyone what you’re doing, promoting your business, and if you’re lucky, you may start generating some sales. For most entrepreneurs, the motivation is unwavering and you work 12–16 hour days. The work is fulfilling and satisfying because you’re doing something for yourself. Get lost in it and enjoy the ride.
Phase 3: Question Everything
It’s very rare and almost impossible to have growth on a continual basis. You will lose an important client. Sales may decline. Competition steps in. People quit, or worse, you’ll have to fire someone. Shit will hit the fan, and when it does, how will you respond? You may question yourself and think this life isn’t cut out for you. More than 50% of businesses fail during this phase — whether it’s after 4 months or 4 years. If you want to succeed, this is the time to persevere. You can’t take no for an answer.
Phase 4: Pivot
You will not get it right the first time, especially as a first-time entrepreneur. Embrace the journey and learn from your mistakes. Small failures are the best way to understand your true calling and adapt. Figure out what’s working, which may not be what you set out to create — and focus on it relentlessly.
Phase 3 and 4 will repeat themselves time and again. It’s a never-ending loop, but those loops become smaller and easier to manage.
“Tough times never last, but tough people do.” — Robert H. Schuller
So, now that you understand the winding and rocky road of entrepreneurship, how can you create a business that stands the test of time? How can build something that can weather the storms?
How to Build a Lasting Business
Focus On The Vision
“Focus” is the key to building a profitable business. Entrepreneurs tend to be creative visionaries, which often comes with ADD personality traits. It’s easy to get distracted by the shiny objects as you get excited about ideas. You need to find someone to be your integrator, a right-hand person that lets you be creative but keeps the team from sailing off course. Stay focused and become the best at one thing so you can scale.
“Focus on your customers and lead your people as though their lives depend on your success” — Warren Buffett
The Customer is Always Right
This saying is something I believe in, even when it’s the last thing I want to admit. Obviously, the customer isn’t always right. You’re the expert, right? They probably didn’t read the proposal, their ideas suck, or maybe they have unrealistic expectations. The point is, it’s your job to educate your customer so they can learn how to be right. If you’ve finally had enough and want to part ways, it’s your job to make sure the client leaves on good terms. That may mean refunding them even if it’s the last thing on earth you want to do. Don’t step over dollars to pick up dimes. I promise you the money may hurt in the short-term, but you will be protecting your brand long-term and that’s invaluable.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” — Bill Gates
Keep Your People Happy
How can you expect your employees to be motivated and nice to customers when they aren’t happy where they work? Without a doubt, the most important ingredient to success is your people. Whether you’re selling a product or servicing clients, your job as the leader is to make sure your team is happy. Hold monthly one on ones with everyone on your team, or give an employee a day off if they’re noticeably overwhelmed. Being a great leader requires emotional intelligence and being there for your team.
“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” — Many Hale