5 Tips for Surviving the Roller Coaster Ride of Building a Business
Building a business, like working towards any big dream, is a roller coaster ride. Any given moment can take you from, “This is awesome! My idea is brilliant! I love my life! Why didn’t I do this long ago?” to “This sucks. My idea sucks. I'm going to end up living in my car. Oh crap, what have I done?!”
Here’s tip #1: Know that true innovators are inherently manic. You’re not alone. Big breakthroughs often happen right after we are most tempted to quit. Low points are a signal to dig deep and keep going. You will be well-served at this stage by practicing breathing techniques and meditation. If these are new concepts for you, find a local resource or search YouTube for guided tutorials. Try "Stop. Look. Go." now for instant relief. Put your subconscious to work by visualizing your ideal outcome in vivid detail. Get your mind right, visualize success, and keep going.
If your primary emotions are frustration and overwhelm, consider whether you are focused enough. One of the things I love about working with business builders is that they are smart, creative, and have great ideas. Most of them have too many ideas. I’ve been there as well. It’s easy to become a victim of your own brilliance.
Here’s tip #2: Work with a coach, mentor, or fellow entrepreneur to sanity check your focus. Have you organized your time and tasks so that you are proactive instead of reactive? Can you explain your product, process, and value proposition in simple terms? Do you have a laser-like focus on your target customer? My friend Nate Wolfson at EOS was instrumental in helping me better define the demographic, psychographic, and geographic profile of my ideal customer. Think about your "bullseye" in terms of those three categories, and make sure you are speaking to them, not about yourself.
Meanwhile, the external pressure of proving the dream and making a living are also real. When I started my first business, I’m pretty sure everyone thought I was off my rocker. Family members responded to my “Making dreams come true!” social media posts with comments such as, “When you can pay your bills with dreams, let me know.” If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you’ve likely heard such remarks as well.
Here’s tip #3: It’s not you or me; it’s them. Innovative thinkers make some traditionalists uncomfortable. We are taking risks that they would not be willing to take. It pays to remember that some of the most successful people in the world got there by doing the things that others were not willing to do. You do not need to defend, justify, or explain yourself. Accept that this is your unique path; others may not see it until/unless you are ultimately successful. It’s okay.
For example, when I left the security of Gartner, Inc. for an incubated startup, one friend repeatedly asked me, “When will you throw in the towel and go back to a ‘real’ job?” Eventually, she understood. Despite a very rough beginning, my team grew that business to over $10 million dollars within three years. It was a win.
Here’s tip #4: We create mental and emotional muscle memory. Big or small, every ‘win’ is incredibly powerful at this stage. Be mindful and celebrate. Capture and memorize your moments of “flow”; when everything is in perfect focus, and you feel sure that you are doing exactly what you are meant to do. Bask in every glimpse of extreme clarity.
Lack of clarity isn’t only an internal struggle. Unclear goals and the swirling vortex of ideas also affect our ability to communicate with others. While visiting the Alpha Loft the other day, I spoke with a pair of startup business partners who are having a tough time seeing eye-to-eye on a few key decisions. They had created a dynamic of stubbornly fighting for their ideas and logistics instead of focusing on the ultimate destination.
Here’s tip #5: Ask, “What are our goals here?” early and often. When communication gets strained, double back to make sure that everyone involved is focused on the same outcome. There have been many times in my career when I had to prioritize the ultimate success of the team over being “right” or having my idea take center stage. Listen to understand and collaborate, not to gain evidence and prove a point.
Tuning into your heart as well as your head is a worthy investment. Business strategies, processes, structures, and tools are important. However, enduring success happens from the inside out. More often than not, it’s a crazy roller coaster ride instead of a smooth, straight path. By successfully navigating the ups and downs on the way to your dreams, you build resilience and confidence. Ultimately, increased confidence brings increased capacity.
Believe in the dream, and yourself.
# # #